No one thought back in January that Amber Martin, afflicted with cancer, would survive long enough to attend her high school prom in May; not even Amber herself.
Out of love and compassion, her friends and family threw a special prom for her at Rick's Place in Lancaster, creating for Amber, a fun night she would never forget.
Five months later Amber, who just turned 17, is still with us, and on Saturday night she will walk into her prom on the arm of longtime friend Quinn Fetterman.
"I didn't think I'd be here for the prom," Amber said. "We didn't think I'd make it to May. That sounds morbid, but..."
Morbid is the last thing Amber could be called as she prepares for her prom at the Eden Resort.
Dressed in her filmy white gown with blue accents, and with her wrist corsage, Amber, who would be entering her senior year at Garden Spot High School had not the cancer forced her to withdraw, is bursting with anticipation.
"I'm excited," she said. "I'm sure my friends will be glad to see me, but I'm going for Quinn, not for anybody else. It's me and Quinn's night. My other friends have their own dates."
Amber admits she doesn't have the stamina to dance the night away, but she eagerly anticipates the food, especially the "kick-butt desserts." "I'm pretty stoked on that," she said with a smile.
Quinn, who has been friends with Amber since eighth grade, called himself "the luckiest guy alive." "I was worried that she was not going to be physically able to go, but she's been good the past two weeks, so I'm happy," he said.
Amber has had a rough time since the January "prom." While radiation has shrunk the tumor in her back, a new one has appeared on her spine. Worse, the cancer has now spread to her brain.
Radiation has also taken a physical toll on the girl. Gone is the long, brown hair she sported in January, and she tires quickly.
What is not gone, though, is the spirit and liveliness of a young girl facing the gimmest of futures.
"There's no point in trying to beat it if you're just going to be mad about it all the time, because you're just making yourself miserable," Amber says. "You're staying alive to be miserable. That's stupid."
Amber's bouyancy and high spirits come from the fact, her mother Angela Hurst says, that she understands her situation and does not fear death.
"She has a firm grip on what's happening," Hurst said. "But that doesn't mean she's ready to give up by any means. She's going to fight it."
What also props her up is the confidence that she will be reunited with her father, Jay Martin, who died of cancer in 2011.
"She has a very strong faith and she has a firm belief that when she goes, she will be reunited with her dad," Hurst said. "She's not afraid to die, but people need to understand she's not ready to go tomorrow."
Her courage is such that a month ago, Amber began planning her own funeral, picking out flowers in all shades of purple (her favorite color), and a white coffin, "so all my friends can sign it with a Sharpie before they put it in the ground," she said.
Amber admits she was embarrassed when her story was first made public in January, and still blushes when it is suggested that she has become a symbol of strength for others.
"I got, like, 500 Facebook messages a day for about a week," she said. "I got messages from people I had never met, telling me how I gave them courage, and stuff like that."
During a recent bout of chemotherapy she met a woman who was about to undego her first treatment.
"She was so scared, and I tried so hard to calm her down because I felt so bad for her," Amber said.
Her mother said the woman later told her that she felt "if this young girl can do it, she could take it too."
For now, the family is just trying to hold on to whatever time they have left, and hoping the chemotherapy will at least buy them a little more.
"We all know that her days are, unfortunately, limited," Hurst said. "We just want to make each day as happy for her as we can. We want to let her experience life as a teenager as normally as possible."
Amber, who earlier this week bought a 2003 PT Cruiser she named Toby, said her plans are to have fun for as possible "and go to the prom."
Who could ask for more than that?