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This post is dedicated to Alicia Parlette, her family and best friends.

Alicia P

Photo Credit: Monique Sady, Alicia Parlette's Facebook Page

In 2005, Alicia Parlette, a copy editor who had just started her career at the San Francisco Chronicle, was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable cancer at age 23.  Some people might have chosen to deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment privately, but from those early days of testing and diagnosis, Alicia had an opportunity to write about her experiences.  She embraced that opportunity fully, and as a result, touched thousands upon thousands of lives.

This morning, I was saddened to read about her death.  And as my eyes devoured the Chronicle story, I found myself moved to tears, and became thoroughly inspired by the way she lived her last few years.  Alicia might have spent only 28 short years in this world, but  she had taught us so many of life’s precious lessons by showing us how to live.  What are these lessons?  Here are my top three, and I’m sure there are many, many more…

  • Find Blessings in the Midst of Tragedy – Alicia wrote that “tragedies are linked with blessings, and that among my many blessings is a chance to write my story.”  Instead of moping and shutting down, Alicia wrote about her experiences with courage and warmth and opened up her world to many others who may have had to face similar situations.  Her Facebook page is full of wall posts from people thanking her for having inspired them.  Here are a couple:  “My dad has cancer, and reading about her struggle helps me and continues to as my dad fights against this horrible disease.” (Leslie Beebe).   “To her family and closest friends… I, too, watched and waited as I lost my best friend… the longest and yet most meaningful three weeks of my life.” (Linda Petsche)
  • Pursue Your Dream – Come rain or sunshine, sleet or snow, or even the dreaded Cancer, Alicia never lost sight of her dream to become a writer.  She wrote that that “if I go through this life-changing ordeal and my body just wears out and I die, I will die a writer. The one thing I’ve always wanted to be.”  Indeed, the one thing she had always wanted to be, she became.  Shortly after the very first part of her series titled “Alicia’s Story” was published, the San Francisco Chronicle received an outpouring of feedback – more than 2,300 people from around the world wrote, emailed, called or posted online comments.  Alicia had struck a chord.  Alicia’s story was their story.  Alicia, you became a writer indeed, and one who will not be forgotten for a long, long, long time.
  • Life is Never Too Short to Love – I read of the love between Alicia and Lucas Beeler, about how they met on BART back in October, and how even as her last days drew closer, they decided to have  a private commitment ceremony.  And by the time I got to the part about Lucas giving her the wedding ring worn by his mother and grandmother, I could not stop my brimming tears.  

As one of the thousands of others who relate to your story, having had parents who were diagnosed with cancer, and having lost my dad and having survived cancer myself, I thank you deeply, and salute you for sharing your story and your life with us.  You may have lived 28 short years, but from the number of people you have touched, the lives you have changed, the pure soul that so clearly shines through in your writings, you must have lived at least 200 years, not!?


Note:  Contributions in Alicia’s memory may be sent to the Alicia Parlette Fund for Aspiring Journalists, Reynolds School of Journalism, Mail Stop 310, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557.  You can also share your thoughts, memories, prayers, or make a donation in her name at www.msparlette.com.

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