Allison Alexis: Lending a Shoulder to Lean On
Says Cancer Walk in Richmond Hill is Getting Better Each Year
By Mohamed Alim Hassim
“You’re not alone.”
That’s the message Allison Alexis wants to convey to persons battling cancer and those recovering from any form of the disease.
Allison, a breast cancer survivor herself, is the founder, coordinator and host of the annual Queens Cancer Walk held in Richmond Hill. The walk, which is now in its fourth year, was held on September 16th. It culminated at the Phil Scooter Rizzuto Park (formerly Smokey Oval Park). The walk raises funds for SHAREing and CAREing, a non-profit organization that addresses the needs of cancer patients and their families in New York City, and which stood with Allison every step along the way during her battle with cancer.
“It is my way of giving back to SHAREing and CAREing,” Allison told THE WEST INDIAN in an interview recently. It is also her way of helping her community, by bringing awareness and educating members about resources available to persons battling cancer.
Every year representatives of SHAREing and CAREing are present at the walk to enlighten participants about the services they offer and how the community can benefit. SHAREing and CAREing provides cancer outreach, education, support and advocacy services to all women and men, particularly those who are under- or uninsured members of minority groups.
Nurse Linda Bulone, a member of the research team at the Queens Cancer Center of Queens Hospital, was also present at this year’s walk – as she was in previous years – to enlighten participants about help that is available to cancer patients and survivors.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz graced this year’s event and thanked Allison and her volunteers for the “great work they are doing for the community.”
Every year at the walk, persons are recognized for their contribution to the community. This year, Allison said, the event honored cancer survivors and persons battling cancer. This year’s honorees were Lisa Bachan, Marci Plaus, Natasha Veerasawmy, Mikaela Mohammed, Michelle Perzan, Nayaba Arinde and DJ Dean Lewis.
Participants were treated to entertainment from artists, including dancer Sean Kulsum, George P-Goodz, DJ Dean Lewis and The Professionals and panist Patrick Davis who played background as young singing sensation Victoria Labban serenaded the crowd with her rendition of ‘Rise Up’. To further lighten the mood this year, Allison included a ‘wining’ (dancing) contest which was won by eight-year-old Amaya Vasquez.
“It is getting better and better each year,” Allison told THE WEST INDIAN, adding that more people are becoming aware of the event and are lending their support.
Thanking all her supporters, Allison said she is honored “to have been chosen by God to do this” and she will continue to do it “as long as God wants me to.”
How it all started:
Allison was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 14th, 2011. From then on it was a battle that only her strength and her faith in God could’ve helped her through. She had the support of relatives and friends, to whom she is eternally grateful, but most of her battles she fought alone.
She recalled one day after being diagnosed, she took the bus home and cried all the way and not a single person in the bus asked her if she was okay.
On April 18th 2011, she underwent her lumpectomy. After one week, Allison had no choice but to go back to work, cane in one hand and backpack on the other. “I really had no family to stand on so I had to go back to work,” she said.
Then came chemotherapy. She had to take four sessions, three weeks apart, and, with every session, it got worse. “The first time I went for chemo, it was fine but by the weekend I could not understand what was happening with my bones,” she recalled. “It was like someone was pulling inside of the marrow and I never felt pain like that in my entire life.”
One week after the first chemo, Allison began to lose her hair and that was not easy at all for her to experience. “It was hard, really hard, but prayers got me through it. Lots of prayers from lots of people,” she said.
After chemo Allison went through 33 sessions of radiation treatment.
During her battle she learned about SHAREing and CAREing and received the support from that organization throughout her struggle. “Even when I did chemo, they were there with me, side by side,” she recalled.
One year later her doctors told her she was cancer-free.
Now a cancer survivor, Allison began thinking about how she could help her community. She attended a cancer walk organized by SHAREing and CAREing in Astoria, Queens, and that was where the idea of a cancer walk in Richmond Hill gave birth. Together with the support of two good friends — Safraz Deen, who was head of a charitable organization called Wish Foundation; and Mohamed Q. Amin, a young community advocate — Allison started her first cancer walk in Richmond Hill in September 2014. And she plans to continue doing it as long as she could.
Allison wants to let those battling with cancer know that they do not have to do it alone. “There are people to walk with you through this. You are not alone.”
She is currently working on her next major step towards helping cancer survivors – that is, the setting up of a support group for survivors.
“I am here as a shoulder to lean on and as a support for anyone. I am in the process of forming a support group for survivors because they need people to talk to. Most likely its going to be by the Lefferts Library. I just have to put it all together, so survivors can stand up and be each other’s strength,” she said.
SCENES FROM THIS YEAR’S CANCER WALK (PHOTOS BY SHAMEER BASANT & DESIREE VEERASAWMY)