Jennifer Goodman Linn You Fearless

To know Her Was to Love Her – Alyssa Ann Acquafredda (1986 -2011)

  It’s ironic that right after I had the privilege of celebrating the gift of life and turning 40, my dear friend lost her battle at the way-too-young age of 25. Alyssa and I met through my doctor at 2010’s Cycle for Survival. My doctor who rarely gets effusive about anything said to me, “You must meet an extremely special person.” That was the understatement of the year. Alyssa was the most positive person I have ever met. Despite dealing with an extremely aggressive form of cancer near her heart, she never, ever gave up hope. Her two last Facebook posts are symbolic of that optimism and cheer.

March 3rd - "Bad things are like waves. They're going to happen to you, and there's nothing you can do about it. They're part of life, like waves are a part of the ocean. If you're standing on the shoreline, you don't know when the waves are coming. But they'll come. You gotta make sure you get back to the surface, after every wave."

March 1st - “Anything is possible. You can be told that you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight.”

Although Alyssa was 15 years younger than me, I learned so much from her. She was a hero to me; someone who approached this dreadful disease with grace, dignity and passion. Alyssa jumped into Cycle for Survival wholeheartedly. She had multiple teams celebrating her battle (aptly called Mission Cure Possible and Alyssa’s Army) and she joked with me this year that despite not feeling great, she was going for the Cycle “Trifecta” attending the NYC, Long Island and Chicago events. Alyssa had a wonderful support network of friends and family members who never left her side. She was SO LOVED. When I would visit her in the hospital (we would often be there at the same time), there was no room to sit on her bed because all of her friends were camped out there. It reminded me of when I was a little girl and I would sleep with hundreds of my stuffed animals. She was like a celebrity…people would “wait in line” to talk with her knowing that just a few minutes with her would change your life for the better. And her sense of humor, despite these challenges, never left her. She joked to me once that she now understood that she got cancer because it was “meant to be” that she would meet one of the MSKCC oncologists who happened to be young and good looking. She joked after open heart surgery that she is one of the few people in the world who can say that she literally has had her heart broken, If I ever got bad news about my disease, Alyssa was the one to call. She would cheer you up. Alyssa and I talked often about our mortality. We both were not scared of dying but rather were terrified of the process of dying. We valued the quality of our lives way too much to consider that we might have to suffer in pain for months. The silver lining on this awful cloud is that Alyssa didn’t suffer for long at all. She started to feel weak last week and five days later passed on. For this I am grateful. Although her death is just an exclamation point to the realization that cancer is a disease that doesn’t discriminate and can take anyone from us, no matter their positivity or their willingness to live. A fellow patient and friend Corrie said it best, “I am infinitely better for knowing her and will try to incorporate her unique ability to shine into every moment of my life and in that way, I hope to honor her. And as we fight, I will always know that Alyssa has her fingerprints all over the dagger that we're lodging into the heart of this beast.” Alyssa’s favorite quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson: To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.  Alyssa, you have succeeded in more ways than you know.