Incurable cancer diagnosis spurs faith

Community fundraiser planned for Arlington resident

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Alicia Rhea has been down the cancer road before — breast cancer four years ago — but beat it and was prepared to beat it again after experiencing a painful growth in her chest. 

Instead, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Myofibroblastic Sarcoma of the left chest, with it metastasizing in her right lung. Rhea’s oncologist said it is incurable and gave her a lifespan of one to three years.

“The oncologist said the tumor has shrunk dramatically. He used the word ‘fantastic’ and he’s usually solemn,” she said. “He said your response to it has been fantastic. Last Friday could not have gone any better. He said I’ll have the longer part of three years.” 

Rhea said there is no cure but the news from the oncologist was pretty close to that.

“It’s hard when you don’t think that you’ll see your kids graduate from high school or see your grandchildren,” she said. “It’s encouraging and makes the hell of chemo worth it.” 

She started chemotherapy, an intense regimen of four eight-hour days in a three week cycle. 

Rhea said the community has been there for her. They will continue to be through a fundraiser at 5 p.m. Saturday at The BARn Establishmen. The night will include food, auctions, entertainment and more.  

Rhea said the planned event is overwhelming and so amazing. She also said she’s had a hard time keeping up with thank you notes to everyone who has been there, including providing meals or cards.

“It’s been amazing to have meals when some days are good, some days are bad,” she said. “That’s been a huge blessing. I’ve got people sending cards. The Bible study at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church put together a chemo bag I can bring with me.” 

Rhea said she mostly just sleeps during treatments. She is approaching this through a lens of faith.

“I don’t have a lot of time to be angry and bitter and the more time I spend resentful and questioning is a waste of time,” she said. “I don’t know why God has planned this for me. It’s just easier to look for joy in every day and spend time with the kids.”

Rhea said some days are harder than others, even struggling to get upstairs to take a shower. She and her husband, JP, are parents to Jamey, 17, Sarah, 15, and Maggie, 11. 

“That’s probably been the hardest to realize that they’re not going to have a mom,” she said. 

When “all the time in the world” is given a time limit, Rhea said a big priority is taking the kids to France where she and her husband lived while he studied. 

“We really want to take the kids to France, to see where we lived in Dijon, and see our old friends,” she said. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. You think you have all of the time in the world and then you don’t.” 

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