Parkland senior’s resolve to whip cancer is strong

Parkland senior’s resolve  to whip cancer is strong
December 25
00:00 2014
(pictured above: Alexis Fegan (right) poses with her parents.)

Alexis Fegan takes two chemotherapy pills every morning before she goes to school; She goes for radiation treatment afterward.

In the 17-year-old’s war against cancer, the drugs are her arsenal, but her armor is her indomitable spirit. Alexis doesn’t mope. She is not lachrymose.

“My favorite thing about Alexis and being in this journey with her is her messages to me where she sounds so strong, so upbeat and she knows that she’s going to beat it. It’s really cool for a 17-year-old to have that type of outlook,” said Peter Zimmerman, owner of the Sides Branch Road (off Peters Creek Parkway) Chick-Fil-A, where Alexis works.

Alexis poses with Chick-Fil-A owner Peter Zimmerman.

Alexis poses with Chick-Fil-A owner Peter Zimmerman.

The restaurant held a “Spirit Night” fundraiser on Thursday, Dec. 18 to help Alexis and her family offset medical expenses. From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Zimmerman donated 15 percent of sale proceeds. Alexis’ coworkers came in on their day off to support the effort. They designed and sold “A-Team” T-shirts.
Jordan Roels said it is fun working with Alexis, who she says is one of the most outgoing people she knows.

“Every time we work together, it has been nothing but laughs. We are never serious. She is a really good friend to me,” said Roels, who circulated fliers to promote the fundraiser.

The restaurant has raised more than $2,100 from last Thursday’s sales, private donations and T-shirt sales.

Alexis is overwhelmed by the support and love from her work family.

“It makes me feel like more than an employee, that they actually care about me as a person,” she said. “I can honestly say that I love everyone that I work with, including the owner.”

The Parkland High School senior was diagnosed with Synovial Cell Sarcoma on Sept. 29. The rare cancer, which attacks connective and soft tissue, is most common among teenagers and young adults.

Alexis, a former cheerleader, was a star and co-captain of the Parkland volleyball team when she learned she had cancer.

“At first, it was a mass the size of a baseball and bulging out of my leg. We thought, because of volleyball, it was where I had pulled a muscle,” she said.

An ultrasound and MRI determined it was a tumor in her thigh, and it was growing.

“The tumor had grown to the size of a grapefruit. It wasn’t painful. It was just something I thought would have to be drained until they did a biopsy and confirmed that it was cancerous,” she said.
The news greatly altered what she calls her “Senior Year Dream.”

The senior picture Alexis took earlier in the year.

The senior picture Alexis took earlier in the year.

“Normally, I would go to school, then go to work, practice or play a game. I was doing schoolwork and hanging out with my friends,” Alexis said. “Once I found out, I had to quit the volleyball team and put my job on the back burner. I didn’t get to see my friends because I was out of school and always at the hospital, dealing with tests and scans, as we put a plan in motion.”

Alexis is Vivian and James Fegan’s only child. These are trying times for them, but they have adopted Alexis’  positive outlook.


Vivian Fegan

“She’s taking it all in stride, and she looks at it as a bump in the road on her journey of life,” Vivian said. “She’s very confident that she’s going to overcome this.”

James said it is tough to hide his emotions when he sees his daughter in pain. He steels himself, though, for the sake of his family.


James Fegan

“It affects me, but I don’t want Alexis to see me cry. Her mom’s strong, but cries a lot, and both of us can’t be crying in front of her because she’ll fall apart,” he said. Alexis’ treatment includes participation in clinical studies. She is an active participant in her care, working with her doctors to determine treatments that will best benefit her. But Vivian Fegan says her daughter is also mindful of how her struggle may help others.

“She thinks there is a greater purpose for this happening to her,” Vivian said. “She wants to help someone else in the future and have a positive impact on their recovery. It makes me feel good to know I’ve raised someone like that.”

The strong-willed teen decided that she would not let chemotherapy take her shoulder-length hair in bits and pieces.

“I waited until after my first chemo treatment and it was starting to come out,” she said. “I told my dad I was ready to cut my hair and he said alright. When I got into the bathroom, he had the stool and clippers ready. It was hard not to cry once he started shaving it. May dad is bald too, so we took pictures afterwards.”

When she went to school, before anyone really knew about her cancer, she told everyone she simply wanted to try a new hairstyle.

“Everyone said that I looked like (model) Amber Rose after I cut it. I figured that when it starts growing back, I would dye it blonde for graduation,” she joked.

Over the Christmas break, Alexis will undergo her fourth round of intravenous chemotherapy – the last round before a planned surgery to remove the tumor.

She is hoping to be cancer free in May, when she is set to receive her diploma.

“The bad days are indescribable and I’ve never felt like that before until I started going through the chemotherapy, radiation and the combination of the side effects from both,” she said. “When I’m having a bad day, I try to think about all the good days to get through it.”

Treatments – and their aftereffects – sometimes prevent Alexis from attending school. She is on a special program that allows her to physically attend classes only when she is up to it.

Parkland Principal Spencer Hardy said the school supports Alexis and is doing all it can to aid in her success and good health.

“The biggest thing for us at the school is to make sure we find ways to support Alexis as much as possible,” he said. “She has more important things to deal with and we want to make sure we provide an easy avenue to handle any issues. We don’t want her to have a setback. She is so driven that people can’t help but to want to help her succeed.”

Alexis said she decided early she would not let cancer ruin her senior experience. She plans to go to the prom, even if it’s on one of those bad days, and is just as excited about graduation. She dreams of attending UNC – Chapel Hill to study criminal justice and then Yale, for law school.
“I have to graduate. I have worked so hard to get to this point and I wasn’t going to let something like cancer stop me,” she said. “My proudest moment will be walking across that stage in June, even if I have to go with my pole of fluids attached.”

Finding a sense of normalcy in this epic battle has been a challenge, but one Alexis is meeting. She has found time to hang out with friends and teammates again, doing the fun things they did after school and on weekends before her ordeal began. Staying upbeat is the only option, Alexis declares.

“I’ve accepted that I’m going to beat it, and that’s the only mindset I have,” she said. “I realize that I have to stay positive because this battle is not only physical but mental and emotional. If I get down on myself, I know that it won’t help the situation.”

To make a donation in support of Alexis, go to or go to the Chick-Fil-A at 3343 Sides Branch Rd.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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