Journalist Alicia Parlette Dies of Rare Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma

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Alicia Parlette, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay area died Thursday at the University of California at the age of 28 from complications of a rare and incurable cancer called alveolar soft part sarcoma. She wrote of her experiences through diagnoses and treatment in the 17-part series called “Alicia’s Story”, published in the San Francisco Chronicle and later as a book.

Alicia was 23 when she was diagnosed with the cancer in her hip, breast, and lungs. She had just graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in journalism. She joined The Chronicle in 2005 as a copy editor.

Alveolar soft part sarcoma is a malignant soft tissue tumor, a cancer that that originates in soft connective tissues of the body. The cause of the disease is unknown, but studies indicate there may be a genetic link (Alicia’s mom died of cancer). The tumors are slow-growing and usually arise in the thigh or legs, but sometimes can be found in the head and neck. Alveolar soft part sarcoma can metastasize to other parts of the body, particularly the brain and lungs.

Parlette called her illness a kind of blessing. She said that she did not believe that it was a coincidence that she was given a reason to write. She also had a very strong faith in God, which she writes about in her series. Her brother said that Alicia “wants everyone to know that cancer sucks but always choose life and just do your best.”

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Even during her own struggle, she volunteered in the cancer center at UCSF Medical Center, sitting with patients waiting for chemotherapy treatments.

She received interferon and chemotherapy as treatments, but the disease eventually spread to her lungs. She was admitted to the hospital when the tumors in her lungs had grown to the point that she could no longer breather on her own. In mid-April, Parlette and her medical team decided to end treatment.

Parlette is survived by her father Dave, her brother Matthew, and her fiancé Lucas Beeler.

A scholarship fund has been established in her name by the Reynolds School of Journalism at UNR to provide a salary for otherwise unpaid journalism interns. Contributions in her 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

To read Alicia’s Story, go to http://sfgate.com/Alicia

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