Categories
Healing Life

What I Learned from my Health Crisis

If you have read before in my other blog posts or in Power to Persevere: Inspiring Stories to Help You Get Through Challenging Moments, when I was 19 years of age, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A few days after I turned 20, I had to undergo chemotherapy for a few months. It was rough, and I questioned the meaning of my life. Deep down I knew that this was here to teach me a lesson and make me grow. Sure to say, this is very much true. I am three years out of treatment and feel like a completely different person. Here is what I have learned:

  1. You are stronger than you thought.
    1. No matter how many times I wanted to call quits on treatment and give up, I found the strength in me to keep going. “If I got through chemotherapy and faced and beat death, I can do anything.” I think this to myself anytime I am in a rut. If you are a survivor, you can do anything.
  2. Your diagnosis does not define you.
    1. Your health battle is not all of you. It is part of who makes you who you are, from the lessons learned to your character development.
  3. Vulnerability helps you understand your truth, feel comfortable with who you are, and inspire others.
    1. Opening up about my journey has only helped in the healing process, but has allowed for me to find a community. More and more people have connected with me on a deeper and more meaningful level. My new connections have fueled and sparked others to find purpose and strength in their painful seasons in life.
  4. Tomorrow is not promised. Every single day is a blessing.
    1. Stay present and count your blessings each day, even the subtle nuances.
  5. Remember that everything happens for a reason.
    1. It happens FOR you. Life is not perfect, but the lessons learnt from your battle will develop your character and make you a stronger person. Trust the process.
  6. Your physical appearance does not define you.
    1. Losing my hair and becoming disassociated with my body from treatment and scars was tough to overcome. With time, I was able to heal from these physical limitations. My hair grew back and my scars started to fade. I use them as a sign of strength now.
  7. The things you were once worried about before will no longer bother you.
    1. On the topic of scars, I do not care about them anymore. It took me a very long time to get over them, but I feel like as time passes, the trivial things we were once worries about do not matter anymore.
  8. Money does not buy happiness.
    1. During treatment, I would receive so many gifts and cards. It made me feel so special and blessed, but I realized that even during my toughest days there was nothing that would make me feel good. What got me through my troubling time was not these tangible monetary items, rather my mindset, relationships and genuine conversations, and my connection to God.
  9. Celebrate the small wins.
    1. Recovering from chemotherapy was ROUGH. I believe that healing is a forever journey as you adjust to your new normal. Instead of complaining about how I was unable to do certain activities or feel a certain way, I wish that I tried to stay more positive and celebrate my small wins like not feeling nauseous 24/7, being able to stand up and walk, reversing brain fog, and seeing my hair grow.
  10. Find the subtle beauty in life.
    1. What is beautiful to me is a representation of God’s blessings. Like never before, I am able to connect to and enjoy watching the trees sway in the wind, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, seeing ocean waves crash on the shore, and finding grace in watching birds fly across the sky. Yes, this sounds very cliché, but it is true. These small things bring me joy. They remind me of the notion of life. We are all connected and moving in symphony together.
  11. Don’t dwell on what you do not have, rather think about your blessings.
    1. Where your energy goes, attention flows. I cannot remember where I heard this saying, but I know it to be true. Whenever I place my energy on something that brings me stress, I fall down a rabbit hole of continuing to create more and more anxiety around it. When I catch myself doing this, I try to reframe my perspective and see what I do have in replacement to that of which brings me down.
  12. Surround yourself with people who lift your spirits high and make you want to soar.
    1. I cannot express this one enough. It is so important to find a community and support group that will uplift you. Let go of toxic relationships and create space to invite new souls into your life.
  13. Take it slow and easy.
    1. Be patient and take each day as it comes. Try not to put pressure on yourself to try to be the person who were before the crisis. Learn how to live in your new body. It is okay to have a new normal.
  14. Eat a balanced diet and avoid food that does not make you feel good.
    1. You are what you eat. Limit processed foods and eat fresh and clean. Be careful of what you nourish your body with, thoughts and actions included.
  15. Move every single day.
    1. Go on a walk, do yoga, and find what makes you energized. Do not over do it on your good days because you might not be used to the activity level and might not feel well the next day. Take it slow and do not put too much pressure on yourself.
  16. Connect with God.
    1. There is something out there that is larger than us. Something that we cannot explain. I have personally experienced it, and have also heard of many similar stories from friends, family members, and other sources. Once you realize and know that a higher power, you can invite that white healing light energy into your life and experience slow healing. You feel less alone and know that there is some special power guiding you every step of the way. You just have to tap in and ask for help; you will receive.
  17. Journal is key when you need help.
    1. Journaling allows me to get my thoughts and feelings out on paper. I release them from my brain and feel like I have more head space. If I do not get my thoughts onto paper, I feel as if they have no where to go and they continue to clutter my mind.
  18. There is no linear path.
    1. Every single experience is different. My experience will be different from yours. We cannot put a timeline on when we want to feel a certain way. The best thing is to make a goal list and take actionable steps. Do not put pressure on what you do not have. Release the thought and feeling associated with what you lack, and small blessings will start to perpetrate.

Healing Body Meditation CIAO AMICI, Let's Talk

This week's episode is a special body healing meditation. Ciao amici, welcome to my podcast. My name is Alexa Cucchiara (IG: @alexacuc + @healthwithalexa). I am the author of an Amazon #1 best-seller, Power to Persevere: Inspiring Stories to Help You Get Through Challenging Moments, and health guru. I have created this podcast to help motivate and inspire you to live your best and most authentic life. In this space, I share real and raw stories, bring on special guests, and share tips and tools to help you. Subscribe for weekly episodes and connect with me on Instagram. Arrivederci x — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/alexacuc/message

Categories
Food Healing Lifestyle

Supplements I Used While Healing My Gut

If you had read before in my other gut blog entries, I suffered from a lot of gut-related issues as a result of a health trauma my body faced. I wanted to share with you the supplements I used to help heal my gut. This is for educational purposes only and to give you all hope. Please speak to your health care professional. Information below on the products were taken from the websites of the products.

SBI Protect Powder from Ortho Molecular Products

  • Increases mucosal immunity through immunoglobulins G (IgG) and microbial balance
  • IgG = antibodies that are produced by plasma cells and act as part of the immune response to aid in the destruction of bacteria, infections, and viruses.
  • Supports inflammation and the gut barrier
  • Helps flush out toxins in the GI tract

GlutaClear from Metagenics

  • Helps boost the body’s production of glutathione, an antioxidant to help with oxidative stress
  • Supports liver detoxification

Ortho Biotic Powder from Ortho Molecular Products

  • Supports microflora balance which leads to micronutrient absorption and immune function
  • Gut dysbiosis and bad microbalance can occur whith medications, poor diet, and alcholol.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus (La-14)/ Lactobacillus paracasei (Lpc-37)/ Bifidobacterium bifidum (Bb-02)/ Bifidobacterium lactis (BI-04)/ Lactobacillus plantarum (Lp-115)/ Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GG)/ Saccharomyces boulardii

Glycogenics from Metagenics

  • B-complex to support metabolism

Digestzyme V from Ortho Molecular Products

  • Digestive enzymes to help absorb food
  • Maximizes nutrition absorption
  • Target enzyme support
  • Supports gastric acid

Magnesium Buffered Chelate from Designs for Health (2)

  • Highly absorbable
  • Reduces inflammation and calms nerves and muscles
  • Also in chocolate, spinach, almonds, broccoli, avocado and banana

L-glutamine from Klaire Labs (2)

  • This is an amino acid that helps create and synthesize protein.
  • Glutamine is produced in the muscles and distributed by the blood to the organs. It helps bring nitrogen and carbon to cells, and in order to heal and recover from wounds, you need this from the glutamine.
  • It is known to help with gut permeability and other gut-related issues like IBS and leaky gut.
  • People may experience a deficiency due to trauma, stress, or shock on the body.
  • Specifically, people who undergo chemotherapy become deficient in this.
  • Two types: Trans-Alanyl-Glutamine (absorbed better) or free form.
  • Take right before or after workouts, as it helps with muscle growth and recovery.
  • Also in bone broth, beef, broccoli rabe, fish, and turkey.

Categories
Healing Life Lifestyle Mindset

The Top 3 Things that Helped Me Heal

My Past Experiences

I always get asked the question on how, as a cancer survivor, I healed from my health experience: the surgeries, procedures, chemotherapy, and all of the other fun stuff that came along with the trauma of cancer. I talk about it a lot in Power to Persevere, but wanted to create this blog post as a three-year update. While healing is non-linear and a lifelong practice, taking baby steps each day can help you get to where you want to be.

Just a little background on Power to Persevere, I wrote this book in effort to inspire others going through challenging moments. I do still practice and believe in everything I wrote in the book, but I felt called to disclose more. I started officially writing the book one year out of treatment (age: 21). It was published when I was about two years out of treatment (age: 22). Now, I am three years out (age:23), and have tried even more healing modalities and tools. With a little more life experience, I am glad to say that I have more to bring to the table.

Now, before discovering these three new modalities I practice every week, I want to talk about past research. Between all of the advice I would ever read in magazines and websites, I kept reading the same things: keep a gratitude journal, exercise, and meditate. I was doing all of these things. Some worked more than others, but I did not feel complete. What if I did not want to keep a gratitude journal, or already was doing it and still did not feeling optimistic? What does exercise constitute as, and what if I cannot physically go on a run or lift weights like the suggestions say? What am I supposed to do when meditating and why can’t I calm my mind down? These were the questions that circulated my mind.

So, I was on my quest to find more ways to continue to heal.

Side Notes

My Source of Conformation

I have recently learned a lot more about the scientific and researched-based part of trauma in the book The Body Keeps the Score, and everything that I have practiced this specific year makes complete sense. Trigger warnings when reading this book. However, I would 100% read it whether you have been through a life crisis or notice that you have certain thought patterns, limiting beliefs (hinting at childhood trauma), uncontrolled outbursts, or chronic emotional dysregulations. This book was my source of confirmation that everything I had learned along the way was scientifically proven to work.

My Main Realization

Before I reveal my top three healing modalities, the main take away I have learned is to SLOW DOWN and DO NOT put a time stamp on the healing process! I cannot stress this enough. I learned this the hard way.

In order to heal from anything, you need to give your body the space and time to do so. You need to find ways to reduce your stress and bring yourself into a state of “rest and digest” and homeostasis. When you go through a traumatic experience, your autonomic nervous system goes on overdrive and your body goes into a state of fight or flight. The energy and emotions around the experience are stored in your nervous system, and until they are reprocessed, then they will be released.

After chemotherapy, I wanted my old life back so badly. I had just been through a time period where I had lost control over my life and slowly started to see myself die. I remember right after treatment, about a month later, I would FORCE myself to go on runs (which I would barely even complete). The first vivid memory I had was when I was in Arizona in February. The weather was beautiful, and warm enough to run in. I put on my timer and started to jog. I could barely even run five minutes. My joints were aching and I was having trouble breathing. I started to become very down on myself and upset with my will. Mind you, I had just completed eight rounds of chemotherapy which equated to four toxic months of what my oncologist referenced as “baby atomic bombs.”

Why me? Why can others workout like this, but my body is failing me? I used to run track in high school and was extremely active in my early years of college. Running 5 miles at a time in less than an hour was no big deal for me. I would do this a couple of times a week. Also, I had some doctors who were not helping wither. They had told me that after treatment, I should just go back to my normal life. At 20 years old, this is all I wanted. I tried to, but kept falling a part and getting worse. I believe it was because I was not slowing down or allowing my body to heal.

The reprocessing occurred months down the line for me, personally as soon as I started to “look” the way I left my old self. That was in July 2020.. so about two and a half years out. I suffered from panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, and overall terrible symptoms of PTSD. They only started to slowly go away through these three healing tools:

No.1 – Practicing Bilateral Simulation and Tapping

Bilateral stimulation is a resource tapping mechanism to help reduce stress and regulate the nervous system. This somatic work helps tap, no pun intended, into the parasympathetic nervous system. I was able to practice how to rewire my nervous system through EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing). During this, I have practiced this tapping to help find safe places and resources to turn to that my body was already accompanied by in the past. What’s happening is that there is a bilateral alteration occurring in your body, between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Dr. van der Kolk talks further about this in The Body Keeps the Score. This is also known as EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique.

Essentially, with the tapping, we can access and break emotional circuits in the body. These are stored in the limbic system, a collection of structures in the brain that deals with memory and emotion. They help regulate the body’s nervous system’s reaction to stimuli. by tapping acupuncture points to register calmness.

I would practice butterfly tapping either on my shoulders or right below my collar bones. To do this, take your right hand and bring it to your left side, and your left hand and bring it to your right side. Then start tapping your body.

When I am doing this, I try to think about places or things that have made me feel safe and calm. I pinpoint any smells, sounds, colors, or emotions I feel. I focus on my breath and begin to release the tension in my body. I used the first thing that came to my mind. A cup of warm water and lemon is my physical item, and a specific beach in Bermuda is my safe place.

No.2 – Energy Healing Meditation + Visualization

I have practiced about every type of meditation, and was not moved and transformed until I started to learn about energy work. This is a holistic practice that energetically moves and shifts energy blocks in your body. I first became acquainted with this through reiki, universal life force energy.

In reiki, we focus on cleansing the seven energy systems in the bodies, known as the chakras. Essentially what happens is the practitioner practicing the reiki taps into universal energy from source and transfers it to the body to help it heal. I have gone through attunements and training myself, but before I became a student, I was a patient.

When I got treated with reiki for the first time, the practitioner read my energy through a body scan and picked up different points that needed assistance. Energy can stay stagnant in the body if it is not moved. Supposedly, if not moved, illness can occur. Every point in the body takes two to five minutes to cleanse. The person receiving the reiki also has to be winning to accept the healing in order for it to work.

When I received reiki for the first time, I was told that my heart had some major blocks. When the practitioner worked on my heart, I literally felt one sudden intense pulse, and a jolt of energy transfer throughout my body. A matter of fact, this was done virtually. That day I had to drink lots of water. That week I had intense dreams and flashbacks. This was all part of the healing process. Some people experience heat or tingling sensations as well.

When I practice energy healing meditations on myself, I visualize energy flowing through all of my body, from my head down to my feet. I pretend to see a white light transfer through my crown chakra (my scalp), and slowly paint it’s way down to my third eye, throat, heart, abdomen area, pelvis, my root chakra (my groin) and then down to my feet. I spend more time on places that I feel like need more love.

No.3 – Yin Yoga

In general, yoga offers nourishment to the body’s nervous system due to the breath (pranayama), poses (asanas), and spiritual connection. There is a musculoskeletal connection what helps release pain and discomfort, while building healthy facia, lengthening and strengthening your muscles, and supporting your tendons and ligaments.

Yin yoga in specific is a practice that specifically targets deep connective tissue in longer periods. It can be uncomfortable, but you start to focus your energy on your breath and visualize your body working for you. It helps lengthen connective tissue, bring circulation and flexibility to certain points in the body, and tap into the parasympathetic system. Yin yoga works like reiki in a way because it opens up blockages to make energy flow better.

When I practice yin yoga, I hold my poses for 2-3 minutes, or around 20 breaths. My exhalation is always twice as long as my inhales. I love asanas that focus on the spine, vagus nerve (which is responsible for igniting the parasympathetic nervous system), and third eye in specific. I start to feel my heart rate and breath slow down, as my muscles start to relax and lengthen.