PORTLAND, Ore. – No Marine is shy to overcoming obstacles. It’s one of the things we do best; we adapt and overcome. Staff Sgt. Alyson C. Perez, Administrative Chief, Recruiting Station Portland, is no stranger to obstacles. Once an aspiring boxer, she knew she could bout anything life threw her way. To her surprise her biggest contender wasn’t in the ring. In 2014 she began her fight against cancer.
Perez, a native of Bourne, Massachusetts, got started in the ring with the Fall River Police Athletic League. While attending Bourne High School, she dreamed of one day pursing a boxing career. After graduating high school and attending for a semester at Cape Cod Community College, Perez decided she wanted to focus on her boxing career and knew one route to success could be through the All-Marine Corps Boxing Team.
Perez was always looking for a test, and after speaking to a recruiter she knew the Marine Corps was the right fit for her. “I knew if I wanted to join the service then I would choose the best service,” said Perez. “I knew the Marine Corps was the best and I wanted the biggest challenge.”
After completing recruit training and graduating from her military occupational specialty school, Perez was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, where unfortunately she didn’t have the opportunity to try out for the All-Marine Corps Boxing Team. Despite the setback, Perez continued to train and hone her skills in the ring and with the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
In 2013 she was deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, where she was in the best shape of her life, earning a perfect score of 300 on her physical fitness test. When she found a lump in her underarm in the spring of 2014 she didn’t feel concerned. She had the lump examined and was told it was more than likely a calcium deposit.
Shortly after she returned to the United States, Perez received orders to Recruiting Station Portland as the administrative chief. Upon checking into her new duty station she met with her new primary care provider and again brought up the issue of the lump she had found months ago. She was then sent to an oncologist and was later given the news she had never anticipated; she had three breast tumors and Stage 2 breast cancer.
“When I got the call I just couldn’t believe it, I was so shocked it was like I was in denial about it all,” said Perez. She then followed up with her oncologist and was given a treatment plan which included eight rounds of chemotherapy and ultimately a mastectomy, resulting in the removal of her left breast and nine lymph nodes.
Perez feared what lied ahead and the severity of the treatment that was expected. “I was scared; I had only heard horror stories of people who had gone through chemotherapy,” said Perez. With the support of her husband, her two children and her command at RS Portland, she found the will to go on with the surgery and the treatment plan.
Perez fought through some of the most difficult times of her life while going through her treatment; she was ill, weak and lost her hair due to the chemotherapy. She even had to give up her beloved hobby of boxing due to experiencing partial paralysis in her arm from her lymph node removal.
She never gave up hope and never let her sickness become an excuse. She was determined to do what she expected of herself, and that was to continue to set the bar high. “I never used this as a crutch. Some Marines never even knew I was sick,” said Perez. “I knew going on about my daily tasks like everything was normal would help me recover quicker.”
Upon completion of her treatment and recovery in July 2015, Perez was declared cancer free and went right back to her normal routine at the RS headquarters. She never allowed her obstacles to get in the way of her duties or her oath to her country.
Sgt. Sam Hang, a supply administrative specialist with RS Portland, admires Perez for her hard work and diligence after surmounting such a huge life obstacle. “I think she’s such a strong individual for overcoming something we couldn’t even come close to understanding. She’s still fighting and will fight every day to stay in the Marine Corps.”
Perez currently is awaiting medical clearance to remain on active duty, and hopes to be able to continue to be a strong role model to other Marines and demonstrate by example that you can overcome any obstacle. “I want to stay in to finish what I started. I joined for the travel and adventure and, most importantly, the challenge,” said Perez. “I want to complete my journey.”