The Alaskan Bush People matriarch, 54, had been quoted survival rates as low as 3 percent after being diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. But when the reality star went in to receive the results of her latest scans on Dec. 21 after months of painful radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she just knew she was going to walk out of the room happy.
“I was expecting great news,” the mother of seven says in the current issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday. “I could just feel it.”
She was right: All signs of her cancer, which had spread throughout her chest and back, had disappeared.
“The doctors were as shocked as we were,” says Ami’s husband Billy, who relocated his family from their homestead in rural Alaska to Southern California last year for Ami to receive treatment.
The radiation had made it almost impossible for Ami to eat anything, and she had gotten down to a life-threatening 77 lbs. But now, she’s waking up in the middle of the night to enjoy snacks and weighs 104 lbs.
As she looks forward to life after her health crisis, Ami opens up to PEOPLE about keeping her faith through her darkest moments, regaining her strength, and the chances of her cancer returning.
Was it hard to maintain a positive outlook during your treatments?
You go to the chemo room and for radiation and there are faces there that you’ve grown used to seeing and then you go in again and they’re not there and it’s really sad. But the care givers fill those rooms with so much sincere love and hope — and that’s food for the soul. God gave me a great gift in them.
Facing cancer can be a very personal experience. Why have you chosen to open up about it?
Just this past week I was thinking back about how very bad I really was. Entering that road was so dark and I was fearful. You hear the words chemo and radiation and you’re staring down that dark road and I want other people to know that it’s petrifying but you need to keep a little light. I hope they can see that I made it through and that gives them hope. It’s very scary but I never gave up hope. You have to stay positive and keep God with you because he really does perform miracles. In fact, I’ve allowed the University of California, Los Angeles to use my medical records for a case study because they hadn’t really run into my situation before.
How are you feeling now?
I’m still a little weak and tired and I get a little sicky, but I do some walking around the house now. My last treatment was Dec. 7 and it took about a month for the pain to go away. It was so bad and the radiation treatment hurt so badly. To take a sip of water just hurt so bad and I couldn’t eat anything. It progressed in strength, the hurting. I went from ice cream and mashed potatoes and stuff to nothing at all. I’d like to develop a protein sucker for people. But now I’m so hungry. I used to not be a big food person but now I am so appreciative of food.
What foods are you enjoying?
Chicken, salmon, meatloaf, rice and enchiladas. It was so hard just to get to 80 lbs. and then 90, to actually get to 100 was incredible.
Are doctors concerned that the cancer could return?
I have to go in every three months now for the rest of my life and be scanned to see if it’s back or not. It’s going to be a part of my life forever. But I want to encourage people to enjoy every moment and walk every moment with God because he knows what it’s about. Never give up faith.