Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Nicolas Pogue's name.
After a Sedalia woman received a second breast cancer diagnosis this summer, the community is rallying to help.
Alisha Anderson is a young mother of two who was diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer about two years ago at age 27. She endured five months of chemotherapy, then had a double mastectomy in January 2018 followed by 30 rounds of radiation. Due to her body’s harsh reaction to radiation, she had several surgeries to repair her burned skin.
As she was going through the reconstruction process, she went to the Bothwell Regional Health Center emergency room Aug. 6 with extreme hip and leg pain. A referral to an orthopedic doctor confirmed her cancer had metastasized and was stage 4. She is now on daily medication and recently began radiation to her hip, spine and skull at St. Luke’s Hospital.
“The first time, it was like a movie when someone gets bad news, everything is muffled and just in shock,” she said of hearing her diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it for a few days. Shock wears off, you get used to this new way of life. I decided I was going to fight and do whatever I could the first time. I got through that, things were getting better, my hair was growing back.
“Then the second time, that was hard. It still gets me every once in a while. A few weeks there I was just a mess and sobbing. I remember I was just sobbing one day and went into the bedroom where my boyfriend was laying in bed. I just said I wasn’t ready to die. It’s hard.”
With stage 4, Anderson’s prognosis is three to five years, although she hopes to be what her doctor calls a “rare outlier” who lives past eight years.
Her cancer diagnosis has impacted her life in multiple ways, but the hardest part has been its effect on her children, Stephan and Lily.
“I’ve been mostly bedridden the last two years. As soon as I was better I would go into another surgery or treatment,” she said. “They’re kids, they don’t understand the full complexity of what’s going on. Luckily I had friends and family, but I couldn’t make them dinner, I couldn’t get up because the chemo was excruciating pain. … The hardest part is not being the mom I was used to being and being active with them.”
It has also impacted the family financially, as all her savings were drained during her first cancer fight and she hasn’t been able to work.
To help with some of that financial strain, two local businesses are hosting fundraisers this month to benefit Anderson and her family.
Anderson is friends with many employees at Fitter’s 5th Street Pub in downtown Sedalia and has been a regular patron for years. Regulars at Fitter’s tend to become family, and that family is hosting a fundraiser from 7 p.m. to midnight Thursday in the upstairs banquet room.
“We were devastated when we heard she was diagnosed again,” said manager Christina Crook. “... It’s tough because she’s so young and has two kids. It’s a reality check for all of us.
“It’s the right thing to do because she’s become family and you help family.”
Owner Stacey Fitterer is donating all the food for the event and numerous local businesses have donated items for raffles. Staff will be donating all tips earned that night, and guests can also drop off monetary donations.
Katie Jobe said Total Fitness Gym has hosted a Breast Cancer Awareness Month fundraiser for a few years, with the funds going to local people. This year they selected Anderson thanks to the suggestion of fitness class instructor Kami Wolf, a friend of Anderson.
“For me on a personal level, my mom is a cancer survivor, it’s a cause very near and dear to my heart,” Jobe said of hosting the events.
Total will host Pink Week from Oct. 5-12, which is open to the public, not just Total members. All funds raised that week will be donated to Anderson. Jobe said everyone who works out at Total is encouraged to wear pink or breast cancer-related shirts that week to raise awareness and to be entered into a chance to win a free month membership.
Pumpkins for a Purpose will be hosted that week and anyone can decorate a pink or breast cancer-themed pumpkin for a $5 entry by Oct. 4. Prizes will be awarded to the top three entries. There will also be a 50/50 raffle with tickets $1/one, $5/six or $10/12. Visitors can also drop off a monetary donation at any time that week.
Body Pump and Turbo for Tatas will be hosted Oct. 5 and Body Pump and Piyo for Pink will be hosted Oct. 12.
“I was just blown away,” Anderson said of hearing about the fundraisers. “... I couldn’t believe it, especially Total, they haven’t even met me. They heard about my story. Fitter’s, I have a lot of friends who work there and I’ve been going there for years but they had no obligation to help me and take the time out of their normal schedule to do that. That was just amazing.”
Anderson said the money will be used mostly for treatments and traveling to treatments in Kansas City, plus help with everyday needs at home. She said she’s also hoping to get a second opinion at a Texas cancer clinic if she can afford it.
She said she plans to attend this week’s benefit at Fitter’s.
“You can’t even imagine how grateful we are because this is huge for us to have this support from these people,” she said. “Unfortunately in the medical world it’s practically, if you can’t pay you’re out of luck, so it means more to us than they’ll ever know that I can get the treatment I need to have the best possible chance to have as many years as I can.”