San Francisco Chronicle
Alicia Parlette, who turned her incurable cancer diagnosis at age 23 into a Chronicle series about her experience, died just before noon Thursday at UCSF Medical Center.
She was 28.
Ms. Parlette’s 17-part series, “Alicia’s Story,” drew tens of thousands of followers, who read about her trips to the doctor’s office, the therapist’s couch, her relationships with family and friends, and her faith in God.
Ms. Parlette had just begun her career as a copy editor for The Chronicle after graduating from the journalism department at the University of Nevada Reno when she found out in 2005 that she had a rare form of cancer in her hip and breast called alveolar soft part sarcoma.
She got the news three years after her mother died of cancer.
Despite treatments of interferon and chemotherapy, the cancer later spread to her lungs.
Ms. Parlette went to the emergency room on April 2 with breathing problems and debilitating pain in her hip. Tumors in her lungs had grown to the point she could no longer breathe on her own, and the tumor in her hip had caused it to fracture.
By mid-April, Ms. Parlette and her medical team decided to end treatment.
Days later, she and Lucas Beeler, the boyfriend she had met on BART in October, had a private commitment ceremony. He gave her the wedding ring worn by his mother and grandmother.
As her stamina declined, a steady flow of friends came to say goodbye, and thousands more sent messages via Facebook and a Web site set up for her.
Ms. Parlette recorded her thoughts on a digital recorder, and friends are planning to transcribe them. In her last days, she listened to friends read aloud from her favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She died 20 minutes after her high school English teacher finished the last chapter.
In an April 14 interview with The Chronicle, Ms. Parlette said writing “Alicia’s Story” made her feel like a writer with a capital W.
“It became really like a lifeline in a way for me because I would often come to conclusions about things – things I didn’t even realize until I had written them.”
From the beginning, Ms. Parlette said her illness was linked with blessing. She didn’t think it was a coincidence that just as she was starting to feel creatively restless, she now had every reason to write.
She continued to work on her series despite her illness, and the first seven chapters were turned into a book.
For the past three years, Ms. Parlette shared a studio apartment in the NoPa neighborhood with her beloved rescue dog, Clarabelle.
Ms. Parlette also volunteered in the cancer center at UCSF Medical Center, sitting with patients waiting for chemotherapy treatments. Most recently, she celebrated Palm Sunday at Grace Cathedral with friends.
One of her last wishes was to turn all 28 chapters and updates of “Alicia’s Story” into a comprehensive book.
“Alicia loved working at The Chronicle,” said her brother, Matthew. “It gave her an outlet and made her feel good to help others with cancer. She appreciated all the love and support from everyone who read her story. She wants everyone to know that cancer sucks but always choose life and just do your best.”
In one of the earliest installments of “Alicia’s Story,” Ms. Parlette wrote:
“If I get through this, this story will help me remember the important moments along the way, the details, the dizzying emotions. And, in the worst of all circumstances, 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.”
Ms. Parlette is survived by her father, Dave Parlette, and brother, Matthew Parlette, both of Roseville; and her fiance, Lucas Beeler of Fremont.
A memorial is pending.