This is very hard to write.
After a battle with cystic fibrosis, former Miss La Paz County, lifelong Parker resident and my good friend Alyson Tozer has passed away in hospital in Phoenix. She was surrounded by her immediate family and a team of doctors who had worked tirelessly on her behalf over many years. She was 21 years old.
Everyone knew her and loved her. Aly had a strong spirit that inspired all who met her. She worked hard in aid of cystic fibrosis research, was an advocate of organ donation and a champion for women. She competed in Miss America Organization events and loved the pageant life, making many friends in the process who were just as struck by Aly’s strength as her Parker community. She spent time this past year working on a memoir about her life.
Aly had a double lung transplant just over 13 months ago, from which she recovered so quickly and so well she surprised her doctors. It was a relief for her family and friends, and Aly made a triumphant appearance on Fox 10 Phoenix celebrating her new chance at life. I was able to visit her in Phoenix and see her smile, and she seemed more full of joy than ever. By November she was finally allowed to come home to the Parker Strip.
But early in the new year her body started to suffer badly from rejection of the new lungs, despite frequent visits with her doctors who were giving her a range of treatments for the rejection and trying to deal with other aspects of her illness. Aly spent months in hospital during the first part of this year, dealing with medical complications. She underwent a process called plasmapheresis twice, was on some potent medication, and had a minor surgery.
Just over a month ago, Aly celebrated her ‘Breath Day’; one year since her lung transplant. She spent it surrounded by friends and family on the river where she grew up, boating, swimming and trying on new dresses. She was in good spirits, thankful for the life she was able to live.
But then Aly was admitted to hospital again, this time as the result of a sudden seizure. It became a struggle to balance Aly’s various medical needs, with her lung capacity becoming severely reduced. At the end of August she was back on the transplant list, a result of the urgency of a second transplant despite the weakness of her body.
On Tuesday, doctors said she was not capable of receiving a transplant. Aly passed away at 7:13pm.
Over the last few weeks, there has been a groundswell of support from the Parker community for Aly. She was loved by many, and a role model for even more. On Facebook, many changed their profile pictures to the ’65 Roses’ motif and left messages like these:
“65 roses. I am thinking about you Aly. Just so you know, you have forever changed who I am.”
“You are one of the strongest women I have ever met.”
“Sixty-five roses and hugs being sent to you Aly.”
“YOU are our MISS AMERICA”
“Such a courageous young lady”
“She is the most caring, supportive, crazy, funny an tell you how it is kinda girl!”
“I believe in you and so does the rest of your family, friends, and Arizona community! You’re our Hometown Hero!” #teamALY
I didn’t want to write this article. When I got the sad news about our friend, I stood and watched the storm clouds build over the Parker Strip and thought about our effort this week to show support for her: 65 donated roses, a camera and the story of a brave woman who I admired more than I could ever express to her. The idea was to offer the roses to people who would want their photograph taken in solidarity with Aly. The roses were to arrive Wednesday. Now, the photographs will be in memory of her and the roses $10 in aid of CF research, which is what we think she would have wanted.
In the days to come, there will be many who will reflect on the person Alyson Tozer was. They’ll think of the last time they saw her, the smile she always had and her sheer determination in the face of adversity. In the end, hers was a life tragically short but wonderfully full, and it reflected all the things we hope for ourselves: zest for life, steely ambition, joy, beauty inside and out, willingness to try, engagement with fellow travelers, youthfulness and optimism.
The last message I got from Aly said simply: “Thank you, love you.”
We loved her too. She left a strong impression on the world in her time and will be greatly, greatly missed.
Teresa Tozer expressed gratefulness to the Parker area community, saying, “It takes a village and we have the best there is.”