Amanda Stanley ’08 is no stranger to loss, but through it has discovered the power of choice.
Just a year after graduating from Newman, Stanley received life-changing news. She had a cancerous tumor the size of a football in her pelvic cavity. The tumor was removed, only for Stanley to find out after six months of remission that the cancer was back and had “spread everywhere.”
Stanley faced a difficult choice when, just 10 days later, her leg was amputated.
“Overnight I went from being a medical student to a patient in the same hospital, where learning how to balance and wash my face at the same time was a huge accomplishment,” she said. “I was depressed.”
Even in the midst of loss, Stanley knew she had a choice on how she would respond.
“I had one leg and that wasn’t going to change,” she said. “Was I going to allow myself to be miserable or was I going to choose to be happy and successful? I decided 24 was way too young to hate my life so I embraced the new. I chose a growth mindset.”
That choice was made even more difficult when her spouse was deployed to a warzone, Stanley changed careers, went through a divorce, then watched as her father got sick and eventually passed away — all within four years of first being diagnosed with cancer.
Even with these life-changing setbacks, Stanley ultimately chose to seek joy and happiness.
“It was, and is, a daily choice,” Stanley said. “Deciding to be happy doesn’t make things magically better, but it allows you to focus on a goal. One day you wake up, look around at your life and realize you took a life that seemed so broken and created something you never saw coming but that is absolutely beautiful.”
Stanley decided life was too short not to enjoy her job every day, so she changed her career track from becoming a medical doctor to becoming a doctor of law. When she passed the LSAT with flying
colors while still “very sick and very medicated,” she took it as a sign.
“I applied to law school and the rest is history,” she said. “It wasn’t easy. My entire first year of law school I was really sick. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep in property law every day, but I survived.”
Today, she serves as the city attorney for Topeka, Kansas, where she works to make her community a more equitable home for everyone. Stanley said she loves being a lawyer and advocating for her clients.
“Much of what I do, no one will ever know about, but it matters,” she said. “When you love something, there is usually a way to figure out how to do it without letting stereotypes or prejudices get in the way. Having one leg doesn’t make me a less effective advocate for my clients. It just means I have another story to tell and I am probably a more memorable golfer.”
It’s no surprise that many are inspired by Stanley’s intellect, wisdom and grit. In March, Stanley presented a keynote speech in Lawrence, Kansas, for the 2023 Ms. Wheelchair Kansas ceremony. The next month, she was featured as an “Everything Woman” by KSNT, a television station in Topeka — what she described as “an incredible, meaningful and empowering experience.”
Every person will likely experience adversity at some point in his or her life. When faced with a challenge, Stanley’s advice is to “surround yourself with people who make you laugh and help you maintain perspective.”
She added, “Take a deep breath, and ask, ‘What reaction is going to help me accomplish my goals?’ You will make the wrong choice sometimes. That’s OK. That’s part of life. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Learn from them and move forward.”