Wife & Mother, Founder, Head and Neck Cancer Fund, and Survivor of Stage IV Tongue Cancer; Alexandria, VA
In 2002, Alyssa was diagnosed with Stage 4 Tongue Cancer. She underwent a 14.5-hour surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Her medical team, headed by Dr. Jatin Shah, split her jawbone open to remove a large tumor on her tongue and cancerous lymph nodes. Dr. Cordeiro then performed a free tissue transfer to reconstruct her tongue and removed a portion of skin and tissue from her forearm, reconstructed the roof of her mouth, and reconnected veins /microsurgery in her new tongue to ensure it would flourish and heal.
Dr. Huryn and his staff created a palatal augmentation prosthesis that lowered her upper palette. After spending two weeks in MSKCC, Alyssa began concurrent radiation therapy and chemotherapy at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut.
It was a grueling course of therapy. What should have been seven intense weeks of treatments turned into six tumultuous months. Alyssa suffered countless complications and numerous setbacks. She was rushed to the ER and hospitalized a multitude of times. Then had another surgery to insert a stomach tube to ensure hydration and nutrition.
“Throughout my battle with cancer, the power of hope is what kept me afloat emotionally and mentally. My team of world-renowned doctors, my family and friends helped me survive and thrive. I taught myself how to swallow, eat, talk, and laugh again. Without hope I’m not sure what I would have done,” explained Alyssa.
Only a year later, in 2003, Alyssa graduated from American University in Washington, DC with a BA in Education and Communication. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in Communications, and for her thesis, she wrote “The Power of Hope.” She graduated with honors in 2006.
Since her recovery and graduation, she has worked for health-related nonprofits and taught Pre-K. In 2013, Alyssa joined Dr. Shah and actor Michael Douglas on a radio tour to increase awareness about head and neck cancer, which was nominated for a SABER award.
In 2019, she founded The HNC Fund which facilitates comprehensive financial support for the well-being of one head and neck cancer patient annually.
In 2020, she became a featured blogger for Cancer Be Glammed, raising awareness for head and neck cancer. Nominated by Dr. Cordeiro, Alyssa was recognized with the 2020 Patient of Courage Award by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
She is happily married and a mom of two phenomenal children.
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