BELIEF: Faith was important to Amanda Dieppa, 23, who died Tuesday after a seven-year battle with cancer.
Photo courtesy of Twellman Family

 

 

 

SERVICES SET

A private family viewing will be held for Amanda Dieppa from noon to 3 p.m. Friday in Laguna Hills. A funeral for her family, friends and co-workers will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, 3800 S. Fairview Road, Santa Ana, (714) 979-4422. Graveside services will follow at El Toro Memorial Park in Lake Forest. Amanda's parents, Tom and Linda Twellman of Irvine, said donations in Amanda's name can be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (www.leukemia.org) or to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cancer patient, 23, had steadfast belief
Last words to husband were: 'Live by faith, not sight.'


The Orange County Register

ORANGE – Amanda Dieppa went around the hospital room, one by one, asking those closest to her to answer a question before she died.

During her seven-year bout with cancer, the 23-year-old – who received national attention when a bridal magazine paid for hair extensions so she'd look pretty for her wedding – never cursed her condition, relatives say.

"It was never about the cancer," said her father, Tom Twellman, a retired captain and 20-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "It was always about her faith."

So as Dieppa lay dying Tuesday night at UCI Medical Center in Orange, she wanted some reassurance she would see her loved ones again.

"Mom," Amanda asked. "Do you believe?"

And so it went for the deeply religious Dieppa, who wrote stacks of poems about the Hodgkin's lymphoma that first struck when she was a 16-year-old track, soccer and karate standout at Woodbridge High School in Irvine.

When chemotherapy robbed her of her trademark long brown hair, Modern Bride magazine stepped up with $2,000 for hair extensions for Amanda's marriage to Aaron Dieppa in 2003.

The couple bought a condominium in Mission Viejo and things went well for awhile.

Amanda was working as an informational processing technician for the Sheriff's Department, and Aaron as a civil-process technician at Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.

But in February, Amanda suffered a relapse.

By then, rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to shrink an inoperable tumor lodged behind her heart had decimated Amanda's left lung and left her with only about half of her right lung.

The Twellmans got Amanda accepted into a clinical trial at the prestigious Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minn., where she was one of 17 patients to be treated with an "orphan drug," an experimental drug meant to treat a rare disease, that had a 10 percent chance of saving her.

Aaron Dieppa, 24, spent every day at his wife's side in Minnesota for about a month.

A few weeks ago, her condition worsened. Doctors feared pneumonia had set in. Amanda's weight had dropped to 97 from its normal range of 115-120. She was 5 feet 8 inches tall.

On June 24, Amanda finally felt strong enough to get on an airplane and return home.

She spent several days at home with sisters Lisa and Laura, twin 20-year-olds; brother, Michael, 15; her father; and her mother, Linda, 47.

"It was her mother's job to fatten her up," Tom Twellman said Wednesday between phone calls to arrange for his first-born's funeral on Saturday. "She always enjoyed mom's cooking."

Amanda got well enough to move in with Aaron and her in-laws in Orange. The couple had to sell their condo to help pay for medical care.

But on July 13, after taking another turn for the worse, she was admitted to UCI Medical Center.

More than 100 employees at the Sheriff's Department had donated sick hours to allow Amanda to take extensive leaves, and several were among the visitors to her hospital room during her final hours, including Sheriff Mike Carona.

On one evening, her friends and family escorted her outside in her wheelchair so she could say goodbye to Buddy, the Twellmans' beloved overweight Chihuahua.

"There were so many people who got to see her and say goodbye," Tom Twellman, 52, said. "We had that room packed. She was never alone."

Amanda died while on a morphine drip. Her last words to her husband were: "Live by faith, not sight."

Twellman looked at his cell phone.

"It was 5:33 p.m.," he said.

Later, he said: "Amanda did not lose her battle against cancer. She won her victory over death." Pastor Chuck Smith, who married Amanda and Aaron, will preside at her funeral at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Guests will be given a collection of her poems.

One of them, "Palm of Your Hand," reads, in part:

So I fought the good fight

And thought that I'd won

Ready to live

To turn and move on

Just to realize, I've only begun.