|Nevertheless, Alicia ended up as a stay-at-home mom, caring for their two children. That prompted an “identity crisis” which propelled her back to school for two more degrees, one in English and one in Secondary Education. From there, she became a high school English teacher in suburban Providence where the family settled into what Alicia describes as “a hobby farm, with horses and pigs and chickens.”
Theirs was an idyllic family life, right? Father and mother with solid jobs, a son and a daughter, all living on a farm with the horses and the barnyard animal friends. Too good to be true?
At just age 38, Alicia was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. That began 8+ years of treatments, mostly with the cancer that had spread to her liver – where it recurred five times. (Alicia explained that the liver can regenerate, so the surgeons would remove the cancer but somehow it kept coming back.)
She fought hard and fought long as she tried to keep herself and her career going. She had kind words for her colleagues at the high school who allowed her to keep teaching when she could, and she got creative, having the Science class meet with her surgeon and inviting writers to come to their family farm to meet with students. Still, Alicia couldn’t keep going. The school eventually suggested that she take a medical retirement and she recalls that the physician assigned by the school system to approve a medical retirement was impressed by how upbeat she seemed for someone with terminal cancer. Terminal. And she knew it.
Then came a call from her doctor. Here’s what happened, in Alicia’s words:
“At that point, I was actively dying. I was 98 pounds. My doctor called and said that there was a doctor visiting from California and he’d been talking about a new treatment they’d experimented with, using dogs. I volunteered. No insurance was going to cover it, of course, so I basically had to donate my body to science before I died. But I figured I would rather die on the table than have my kids watch me waste away.”
(Photo: Alicia with son Jake and daughter Libby)