WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Family members and friends of a 24-year-old Waynesboro woman were hit hard when they learned cancer took the woman’s life Monday.
Family members and friends of a 24-year-old Waynesboro woman were hit hard when they learned cancer took the woman’s life Monday.
Alesia Smith, a 2003 graduate of Waynesboro Area Senior High School, lost her two-year battle with tongue, neck and throat cancer one week after her 24th birthday. Unable to eat, the young mother of a 16-month-old boy weighed just more than 50 pounds when she died.
After her illness was detailed in a November 2006 story in The Record Herald, the community rallied around her, making donations and holding fundraisers.
Alesia will be remembered as a woman who loved children and as someone who would do anything for anyone, according to her father, Sam Shaffer of Cascade.
Shaffer said Alesia became concerned two years ago when a blister appeared on the side of her tongue.
“It sort of looked like one of those tongue ulcers at first,” Shaffer recalled. “But it kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Then a lump began to form on the left side of her neck. It grew to the size of a softball.”
Shaffer said his daughter was working at the time, but her insurance had not kicked in and she couldn't afford to go to the doctor.
Finally, her fiance, Cory Green of Waynesboro, rounded up some money, and Alesia was taken to Hershey Medical Center, where she was told she had cancer.
“Our mouths about hit the floor,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer said Alesia didn't smoke or drink. A team of doctors from Hershey was hired to delve into Alesia's past and couldn't find a cause.
“It was just a fluke,” Shaffer added. “It was horrible. She never deserved any of that. She was well-liked, bubbly and exuberant. She never quit.”
Saving Her Baby
Alesia was pregnant when she was diagnosed and wanted to save the baby, even though it meant postponing radiation treatments.
Doctors administered chemotherapy and stretched the treatments out long enough for her to give birth to a boy she and Cory named Brennan.
Brennan, now 16 months old, was born two months premature. He weighed only 3 pounds, 4 ounces, and had a blood infection and a breathing problem called Bradycardia.
Shaffer said Brennan is anemic, and when he turns 3, he will have to have his gall bladder removed.
Clean Bill of Health
Shaffer said his daughter underwent radiation therapy almost daily for five months and surgery to remove the lumps.
“They cut her from ear to ear,” Shaffer said. “They (doctors) were pretty convinced they got everything and gave her a clean bill of health. She started to gain weight for a month and then she started feeling bad again. It turns out the cancer was never in remission. The therapy just slowed it down.”
After the cancer spread to Alesia's throat, she “went downhill from there,” her father said.
Cory Green said doctors informed him and Alesia's family that she was not going to survive.
“She tried and tried and tried to fight it,” he said. “But she wasn't able to eat, and it just wore her out. She never gave up. It was a rough road for her, and she gave it all she could.”
Cory said his fiancee of two years always had a smile on her face.
“She was kind and loving ... an all-around good person,” he said.
Shaffer said his daughter always had a positive outlook.
“She never had an enemy,” he said. “She was beautiful, very outgoing and close with her family. As her dad, those are the things I remember.”
Cory said he met Alesia four years ago on a blind date. He noticed her good attitude when he first met her.
“She was beautiful, always smiling and funny,” he recalled. “Someone I could spend my life with.”
Alesia enjoyed shopping, dancing, going to the movies, going out to dinner ... just “having a good time.”
She used to work for Encore Marketing International in Blue Ridge Summit and Waynesboro Day Care.
Denise Feeser, director of the day care center, said Alesia worked there for four months.
“She was a friend to her co-workers and loved the little guys,” Feeser said. “Our center was saddened to hear such a young girl with such a promising future had passed away.”
Alesia is survived by her parents, Shaffer and Julie Smith, both of Cascade, one sister, one brother, her maternal grandparents and several aunts and uncles.
Waynesboro Record Herald