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http://www.heraldnet.com/stories/06/04/ ... lex001.cfm

Published: Saturday, April 15, 2006

Heartfelt words touched girl's life

Parents overwhelmed by teen's death to cancer

By Yoshiaki Nohara

Herald Writer

EVERETT - Two cardboard boxes sat on a kitchen table, barely holding all the letters and cards.

"Fight on! We are rooting for you," one student wrote.

"Stay strong and remember our love," another said.

Similar messages came from across the county - Rochester N.Y.; Milpitas, Calif.; Tuscola, Ill. - to show support for Allex Apley-Conner, 18.

"I'm sure if she was here, she would've said 'thank you' to everyone," Sharon Snell, Allex's mother, said on Thursday at the family's Everett home.

Allex's mother and father, Aaron Snell, want friends and strangers to know their support reached their daughter's heart.

Allex died of lung cancer April 6 at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. A nonsmoker, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer late last year in Spokane, where the high school senior was living with her grandparents. The cancer rapidly spread from her lungs throughout her body.

"She was just a warm, affectionate kid," her mother said. "She loved life. She had lots of things she wanted to do."

Allex loved animals, Snell said. On her first birthday, she got a puppy. She grew into an independent teenager who took care of her cats and turtles and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

The Snells said they are overwhelmed by their loss, but also by the support people have shown during the last four months.

A friend of a friend, someone they have never met who is working as a missionary in Costa Rica, set up a Web site, www.allexandra.com, to tell Allex's story. The site has received more than 1,000 hits since her death, the Snells said.

In March, about 400 people showed up at a fundraising event for Allex in Everett, they said.

The family went to Tokyo, thanks to Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit group. Allex, a big fan of Japanese animation, visited animation studios and Tokyo Disneyland.

Allex was in a wheelchair and exhausted by nightfall, but she got the best out of the trip, Aaron Snell said.

"That was the only thing she wanted to do," he said.

She turned 18 March 17. On that day, she was on the 40th floor of a Tokyo hotel, looking out at a sunset with Mount Fuji in the background, her parents said.

Allex's condition deteriorated after she returned home. She knew she was getting sicker, but she never gave up, Sharon Snell said.

"She really thought she could beat cancer," she said. "She was a fighter."

At their home in Everett, the Snell family lives with memories of Allex. Her room is still filled with her favorites: Harry Potter books, animation movies and stuffed animals.

Allex had her long red hair cut before starting chemotherapy. She loved the way her hair curled a little at the end. The Snells plan to donate the hair to Children's Hospital for other children fighting cancer.

The couple also plan to keep all the letters and cards people sent Allex. They expect it will take a while, and a big scrapbook, to hold them all.

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