Alicia DeFrancesco was just 15 years old, studying at The American Academy of Ballet when a cancer diagnosis stopped her in her tracks. She explains, she was feeling run down and feverish, so she went to the doctor for what she thought would be a simple treatment.
But bloodwork led her to an oncologist’s office. “He was very matter-of-fact," she said. "He’s like, ‘Alicia, you have acute lymphoblastic leukemia. You’re high risk. Right now, according to your bloodwork, you have about a 40 percent chance. We’re going to do whatever we can to help you live.’”
For DeFrancesco, two and half years of chemotherapy started almost immediately.
“I just kind of went into fight mode,” she said. “I would go in at 8 a.m., I would have a couple of shots, I would have an IV push, and I would get hooked up to my first chemo. Once that was done, I’d have my second and possibly a third that same day.”
DeFrancesco says she was offered a randomized clinical trial, that increased her chemo treatments each time. “So, I was a guinea pig to figure out what’s the maximum tolerated dose that someone can have. I wouldn’t be here without it.”
DeFrancesco just marked 21 years off treatment and being cancer free. She’s now a research coverage analyst at Moffitt Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials Office.
“What I went through 20 some-odd years ago, it may not have saved my life, thankfully it did, but even if it didn’t the data that came from them treating me was going to benefit someone else, and I think that’s the most important thing.”