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A Potential Lifesaver: The Girl Who Could Have Rescued You

Editor’s note: Amara Strande dedicated her final months to advocating for a state statute limiting the non-essential use of “forever chemicals,” also known as PFAS, in a wide range of products. At the age of 20, Amara, hailing from Woodbury, attributed her cancer to these chemicals. Her efforts culminated in the passing of Amara’s Law, posthumously named in her honor, in 2023, now established as state law.

In the ensuing piece, Michael Strande, Amara’s father and the liturgy director at St. Olaf in Minneapolis, reflects on his daughter’s solace in Christ and the enduring impact of her life on the people of Minnesota, who stand to benefit from protection against toxins due in part to her advocacy for the legislation.

During the fall of her fifteenth year, Amara Strande received a diagnosis of fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare liver cancer that predominantly affects teenagers and young adults, often proving fatal within three years of detection. Over the following six years, Amara underwent more than 20 surgeries and procedures, primarily aimed at removing tumors that had metastasized to her abdomen and lungs. Given the rarity of fibrolamellar, treatment options are limited, with surgery being the sole curative approach if caught early. Chemotherapy and radiation, though available, offer limited efficacy.

Despite battling this debilitating illness, Amara desired to be recognized not as a cancer patient but for her diverse talents and passions. She excelled as an athlete, actress, singer, composer, musician, and artist, actively participating in her community at Guardian Angels parish in Oakdale. Engaged in various roles such as cantor, lector, and altar server, she found solace and creative expression within the church environment, often showcasing her musical talents on the piano. Amidst her struggles, she viewed the sanctuary as a canvas for her artistic endeavors, whether serving in liturgical ministries or performing in the annual variety show.

Facing a life-threatening illness at a tender age naturally strained her faith journey. Amara grappled with a profound sense of lament, engaging deeply with her spirituality. Her struggles stemmed from feeling abandoned and questioning God’s presence in the midst of her suffering, articulating her anguish in these words:

“The loneliness, isolation, and feelings of abandonment that comes (stet) with a faith crisis are sometimes unbearable. I was taught that God would always be there for me. If that was the case, then WHERE ARE YOU GOD?”

In moments of anger and frustration, she challenged God to address her pain and illness, pondering how to hold the divine accountable for her suffering. Exploring the concept of “satan” from her religious studies, she contemplated whether God, like a hindrance, obstructed her aspirations, hindering her from fulfilling her perceived calling.

Turning her focus to Christ, Amara sought refuge in her faith, particularly during medical procedures when prompted to envision her “happy place.” For her, that serene space resided at the foot of the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, where the narratives of Jesus coalesced into a profound understanding.

Amara’s empathy extended beyond her personal struggles, as she actively sought out and befriended other young cancer patients, offering them companionship and support. When questioned about the emotional toll of forming connections that might end in loss, she responded, “Dad, I want them to know that they are not alone,” echoing Christ’s message of compassion and solidarity in times of suffering.

Her unwavering empathy and deep connection to Christ propelled Amara into advocacy work. Rejecting pity, she aimed to amplify her voice not for personal gain but for the collective welfare of her community.

Tragically, Amara passed away shortly before her 21st birthday, a mere week prior to the legislative approval of Amara’s Law in Minnesota. Her legacy endures through her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of others, leveraging her own pain and compassion to drive positive change for all.

With over four decades of service in the Church and a Master of Divinity degree from The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, Strande reflects on his daughter’s profound impact and legacy.


One of Amara Strande’s compositions, “I Am the Strange,” encapsulates her spiritual journey and deep connection to Christ. Explore her music on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and more by searching for her name.