Alyssa Grace Divers, a sparkly firework, burst on to the scene February 25, 2002 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Brilliant and beautiful, Alyssa was a voracious reader who loved nature, dancing, singing, gymnastics, dolphins, horses and a good play on words. A delightful child, clever beyond her years, she loved verbal parring and enjoyed pointing out errors in grammar (on signs in the hospital, for example,) or the oddities of language. Kind and gentle, with a heart of pure gold, she also loved animals and became a vegetarian as soon as she realized the “chicken” in her baby food was “chicken.”
An honorary Dogwood Festival Princess, Alyssa participated in two parades and was looking forward to singing for the April 2013 breakfast in her honor when she died at her home on Monday, December 31st, 2012 after a fierce, unrelenting two year battle with osteosarcoma.
Alyssa was in tap class with her Mommy (who was her teacher) when she indicated that her knee really hurt. That pain turned out to be a fractured growth plate because of a mass growing in her distal femur. While Alyssa’s tumor was caught early and not terribly big, she suffered a fracture through the tumor spreading the disease throughout her body. Alyssa’s leg was rebuilt and she learned to dance on it again only to discover her final week of a 40 week chemo protocol that the tumor had regrown. The cancer that Alyssa had turned out to be therapy resistant – a term that means the chemo didn’t kill it.
At MD Anderson Cancer Center, Alyssa permitted the medical team to pioneer a new amputation surgery to try to salvage a residual limb as well as rid her body of the cancer. Tragically, the cancer was too aggressive. 38 hospitalizations and less than seven months from the amputation, cancer had invaded Alyssa’s lungs to the extent that her body could not survive any longer. With her Mommy, Daddy and Sissy sleeping close by, Alyssa was stolen from this world.
She is survived by her parents, Laura Lynn Litchfield Divers and Jeffrey Alan Divers, her little sister, Alexa “Lexie” Noelle Divers as well as all four grandparents and many beloved aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends, her bunny, Snowball- and a local and global community that loved her deeply.
In spite of all of that, in her final months, Alyssa didn’t let cancer stop her from doing what she wanted. She enjoyed a trip to Miami to swim with dolphins, to Atlantis for a tropical vacation, and even to New York to experience the Rockettes, Broadway and the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center. New to horseback riding in October, just two weeks before Alyssa died in December, with only one leg, Alyssa won a blue ribbon in her first horse show in the walk and jog class on her favorite pony, Leo. As an amputee, Alyssa continued weekly dance lessons, working on a duet with her Mommy which she hoped to perform in the Spring Performance of 2013. Together, Alyssa and Lexie put many miles on the two swings in their front yard. Best friends, sisters and playmates, Alyssa and Lexie shared a remarkable relationship of imagination, play, living room dancing, tea parties and fun. When settling in at night, Alyssa’s favorite activity was “read time” with her beloved Papi/Daddy.
What stands out most about Alyssa was deep abiding love for her family. Her favorite thing was “to live” so she could spend more time with her Mommy, Papi and Sissy. In her battle against cancer she willingly committed to either embracing or sacrificing whatever was necessary because, as Alyssa put it, “if there is a chance, I have to take it.” Her determination and conviction were unsurpassed.
Those blessed to know Alyssa expressed awe and wonder at her journey, her beauty and her brilliance.
Alyssa left us all wanting more.