Written by Penni Gladstone, the San Francisco Chronicle photographer whose pictures of Alicia were part of Alicia’s Story.
Wait Alicia, don’t go, we still have to get another gelato to eat. When we were in Italy we would indulge every day sometimes twice a day. While in Florence I followed her as she and her friends danced in the street, and danced down a flight of church steps.
I first met Alicia in an airport with her dad. We flew to Texas to visit MD Anderson Medical Center where I was to begin the documentation of a young girl with cancer. We walked in with great hope, and walked out with less. The doctor told her there is no cure. Dave and Alicia hugged each other, cried, held hands and prayed. Soon after, we all jumped into our rented car and drove to the Space Center in Houston. Might as well make the best of it. She played hard, as she knew it wouldn’t last.
I shadowed her to the Safeway Marina with her roommate as they shopped for vegetables and maybe a cute guy. It was nighttime. The best time. Alicia would cozy up on her couch with her roommates to watch the TV. One night as pizza was served I noticed the girls dug in, but Alicia prayed before touching her food.
I have many favorite photographs of Alicia. One is of her with baby bear while she had her hand on her bible before going to sleep. Not sure what gave her the most strength, the toy or her bible. Another favorite shot was made late one night in the Mission District. I met her at 10 pm at a party. But by mid-night her pumpkin had arrived and she needed some air. Alone, she stepped outside on the street and leaned against the wall of the house. A street light fed her warmth and she glowed.
Alicia felt pleasure and pain. Some like pain. It gives them pleasure. Not here, as the pain would creep in while the pleasure was in living life. When Alicia had a doctor’s appointment or a “procedure,” her dad was often with her. The two were attached at the hip. Oops, I mean her good hip. A few times no one was available. She was frightened. She would ask me to go with her and I made it an assignment.
She spent a long weekend at a home in Sea Ranch donated to her for the weekend. Friends poured in. It was one big slumber party. She was surrounded by love and laughter. She was flying from the lollipop that had painkillers in it. She jumped across tide pools and marveled at the sunset.
I remember when Matthew, Dave and Alicia went to the local park and shot off a rocket. Alicia jumped for joy following it up to the heavens.
I also followed her to her mother’s grave. She talked to her mom and put flowers at the site. Then she proceeded to go back to her car, get a blanket, a box of strawberries and a drink. She spread out the blanket just so, and spent time with her mom. She lay down on the blanket and cried. Alicia reached for her mom with an arm on her grave.
What is painful is that the SF Chronicle forgot about her when she left. Now they want to write about her dying as if she is still theirs.
I remember her asking, “Will they forget about me?” She often felt alone with the weight of cancer.
Alicia has many friends. But it’s hard when you have cancer. At times you do feel very alone. People who you thought were your friends never call. Maybe it’s because they are afraid.
I am grateful that I was chosen to shoot this assignment. To spend time with Alicia.
Pennie’s photographs that accompanied the original article series in the Chronicle (navigation is in the bottom right-hand corner): http://www.sfgate.com/gate/special/pages/2005/alicia/gallery_0417.shtml
Penni’s work may be seen at http://www.pennigladstone.com/.
!! 1 year so real Eden rd Angle “
I tried many times over the years to find more information about Alicia and like others, hoped that the lack of information meant she was in remission. Her passing last week has profoundly affected me. I have shed many tears for this beautiful, courageous woman, and I will never, ever forget her. Her amazing spirit will live on and I pray that those who love her will find peace knowing this.
I asked the Gate/Chronicle where I could find info about this girl who I felt like was now a part of my life but got the gentle none of your business email. I respected that, figuring it was Alicias wish so it’s disturbing to hear that might not have been the case.
As I was snuffling at my desk today with the news of her passing I was asked “what’s wrong?” I answered “one of my favorite writers passed away” I think that would have made Alicia so happy that I labeled her as such. I’m so sorry to her family and the lady that was her second Mom in Rosedale, my condolences.
Sad to hear about the Chronicle. But who cares about yet another moribund newspaper, what is important is that the readers never forgot.
Echoing Janey and Lisa. I’ve thought about her many times as time passed, and hoped she was doing well, doing better, loving people, being loved and enjoying her life. I think the latter parts are true; from all evidence, she loved and was loved and she enjoyed her life as much as she could, for as long as she could, until there was no time left. And that time came much too soon.
I read Alicia’s story when it first ran in the Chronicle and when the posts became less frequent I assumed that she was in recovery and happily living life. I never forgot about her and sometimes wondered what had happened to her. Her writing was unforgettable, as was she. RIP, Alicia.
Here’s another reader that never forgot about her over the years. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the honesty, bravery and wisdom shared by this amazing young woman.
Love and peace to Alicia and her family.
Perhaps it’s true that the SF Chronicle forgot about Alicia, but I can tell you that I didn’t and I would bet the farm that many other readers did not as well. I’ve thought about her over the years, always hoping she was improving and living well and was terribly saddened to find out otherwise. My thoughts and prayers are with Alicia and her family.