Saturday, September 01, 2007
By Barbara Yost
The Arizona Republic
The Arizona Republic
For years, one of the brightest stars in the Valley's music constellation has been Amanda Star, a beautiful young woman, former high school track star, Arizona Cardinals cheerleader and a graduate of Arizona State University.
Legions of fans followed her career as she sang with such bands as Zowie Bowie, Rock Lobster, her own Amanda Star Band and most recently LMNOP, where she met and fell in love with fellow musician Gary Romero.
Now Star is on a different stage, and not by choice.
The popular singer has been diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer.
"Cancer brought everything to a dead stop," Romero said.
But Star's illness did not stop the out-pouring of affection from her fans. While other people might deal with disease privately, Star and her family have allowed those fans to share her battle. In turn, her spirits are lifted by their response.
At Amanda's Place, her stepfather, Richard Sauerbrun, posts updates on Star's good days and bad, her short family excursions to Bartlett Lake, a run to Carefree, progress on the house she will share with Romero.
Fans can keep a virtual vigil of Star's treatment, which has included several rounds of chemotherapy. Romero has also set up an account at the Bank of America to help Star financially. Donations can be made to the Amanda Star Medical Fund.
Such blogs have become a less intrusive way to show support and to help out the Internet version of a car wash to raise funds.
Yet the result is the same.
Star has been heartened, Sauerbrun said, by the heartfelt comments that have been posted by friends and family on his blog. And he can reach a lot of people in one message as he and his wife continue to care for their daughter.
"Any time your child is sick, it's tough," he said.
Still, this isn't how it was supposed to be for the girl who grew up in Gilbert and ran track for Gilbert High School, class of 1991. As a little girl, Star watched Madonna perform and knew that's what she wanted to do with her life but still attended ASU, earning a degree in communication.
Her singing reputation was well established when she met Romero. He described them as Sonny and Cher.
"We grew closer and closer, and then we fell in love," Romero said.
A 12-year age difference between Romero, 46, and Star, 34, made no difference. They were in each other's orbit.
The couple moved in together and had plans to fix up their house. They made wedding plans. Star had felt ill for about a year and a half before being diagnosed last December, when the cancer had spread to Star's lymph nodes and abdomen. Chemotherapy and radiation have shrunk the original mass while leaving her exhausted. Star did not feel well enough for an interview.
Self-employed musicians, Star and Romero had no health insurance. She's now supported by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS.
"Amanda's been having a really tough time in the last few months," Romero said, though doctors believe she has done well with her treatment despite setbacks. "We're praying for a full cure . . . She keeps working through these brick walls."
Romero finds it difficult to believe the turn their life has taken.
"You'd never in a million years think something this devastating would happen to someone you love," said Romero, who proposed to Star at her hospital bed. "It's been so scary."
Romero's friends have been generous, throwing gigs his way, so he works as much as possible. He's a product of the West Valley music scene, while Star had worked mostly in the East Valley at such clubs as Barcelona.
"Everybody's been so wonderful," he said. "The musician community is like family."
Romero said he's feeling optimistic, and said the one thing that hasn't dimmed is the love he feels for Star.
"This love is so deep now after what we've been through," he said. "We're together for life."