Sterling woman chosen to speak at Detroit cancer fundraiser

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 26, 2022

 Alicia Jeffreys was scheduled to speak about her experiences overcoming cancer at the Detroit Discovery Ball in Detroit Oct. 22.

Alicia Jeffreys was scheduled to speak about her experiences overcoming cancer at the Detroit Discovery Ball in Detroit Oct. 22.

Provided photo


STERLING HEIGHTS — Alicia Jeffreys was in her late 20s when she was newly married, purchasing her first home and planning to have children.

But over a three-year period, her life turned upside-down when she received a diagnosis of cancer.

“My cancer diagnosis was kind of unexpected,” she said. “I had originally gone in to check out the pain. They thought it was a benign cyst. Instead, that appointment turned into another hour of the doctor looking through the pathology report, (saying), ‘I’m sorry, but it’s not what we thought.’ It was very much a shock.”

Jeffreys was scheduled to share her story at the third annual Detroit Discovery Ball Oct. 22 at Huntington Place in Detroit. The ball is a fundraiser designed to support the American Cancer Society and its Health Equity for Research and Operations Initiative.

Jeffreys, from Sterling Heights, said she originally was diagnosed with cancer when she was 28, after she noticed some discomfort sitting. She called her type of chordoma bone cancer “ultra rare,” adding that it affects around one in 1 million people.

While she said her diagnosis was a shock, she had plenty of financial and emotional support from her family, friends, church and Detroit Pistons workplace.

“They really helped us raise funds to cover our bills and travel,” she said. “They were incredible through this whole journey.”

To eliminate the cancer, she had to have over 100 radiation treatments and over seven surgeries during a three-year period, she said.

“Each tumor had to be treated as a separate cancer,” she said.

She described her mindset through the cancer treatment process.

“I found a lot of solace in anchoring in something that I was hoping for after cancer, and that was starting a family, and that was really sort of the end goal,” she said. “You just have to go through it to get to the other side of it. Of course, it won’t be easy, but you have to have something you’re looking toward, a north star.”

For her, that north star was someday having a family. And after she was declared cancer-free, that goal became a reality. Today, she has been cancer-free for over 10 years, has four kids and is now the Pistons’ chief marketing officer.

“It was kind of like a relief, but also I finally felt like I could start my life,” she said. “Nine months after my last radiation treatment, we found out we were pregnant with my first set of twins. I wasted no time, as soon as they gave me clearance.”

Erika Swilley, the vice president of community and social responsibility for the Detroit Pistons, remembers when Jeffreys was traveling to Boston to receive treatment. During that time, her workplace tried to do as many fundraisers as it could to help Jeffreys out, she explained.

“We also sent her care packages to make sure she knew that she was still top of mind for everyone here at the organization,” Swilley said. Swilley said that even while Jeffreys was going through treatment, she had a blog on the CaringBridge website called “Alicia Smiles.”

“I would say that’s kind of her attitude then and something that carries on though this day,” Swilley said. “She is always just a bright light.”

Learn more about the Detroit Discovery Ball by visiting