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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.

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Mindset productivity

Ikigai

Defined

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “reason for being.” It is the practice of meshing what your soul and heart want, with that of profession and practicality.

I practiced the ikigai exercise when I was undergoing chemotherapy in college. At this time, as you might know by now if you have been following my journey, I felt depleted and like I had no life purpose. I was young and confused. All of my independence was taken from me as I had to drop out of school. It was a rough period of time as I often thought to myself, “who am I, and what is my purpose?”

Despite the ambiguity of my future, I was able to find a sense of hope and purpose from ikigai. This practice made things more clear for me. Although I was unsure of how everything would come together, I trusted in it all. I was able to visually see all of my soul-sparking traits and activities on paper. I have manifested a lot of what I put down on my chart (and boy do I wish I was able to find it so I can upload a photo of mine).

Evidently, the point of ikigai is to ask yourself what makes you happy and how can that transfer to benefiting the world?

How to Practice

There are a set of four main questions that you need to answer. You can create a chart or diagram as seen in the photo above, but the most important thing is to make sure there are four separate sections where you can jot down your ideas. I also added in some supplementary questions that might help you below:

  1. What do I love?
    1. What makes you excited and does not bore you?
    2. What was your childhood hobby or activity you always go back to to this day?
    3. What brings your soul joy and you light up?
    4. What do you do that you lose track of time?
  2. What am I good at?
    1. What are my skills and talents?
    2. What do people come to me for help with?
    3. What are the things I practice and put energy into?
  3. What can I get paid for?
    1. What have I been paid for in the past?
    2. What do I love at work?
    3. What would I do if it was not for my current job?
    4. What is my dream job?
  4. What does the world need?
    1. How can I benefit my community?

After

It might take you a day, week, or even a year to complete your list. I did mine in about an hour. After, you will start to see little puzzle pieces starting to form together. You will slowly feel everything you enjoy mesh and blend beautifully.

There is a reason for your being. Just trust in it.

You can listen to my podcast episode on this here.

Categories
Lifestyle Mindset

5 Books to Kickstart Mindset Shift

“You are a product of the five people you surround yourself with,” they say. Well, how about the books you read? What you consume, you emulate. If you digest hope-filled and positive text, you will feel more uplifted. When your spirits are high, you can project light within your life and onto others.

One of the things I have found helpful is starting and ending my day with something that will set up my day for success. Reading scripture is my go-to. In the mornings I reflect on Jesus Calling, and during the evenings I meditate on A Course of Miracles. I recently started to incorporate The Daily Stoic into my morning routine as well.

There have been so many books that I have read that have helped me reframe my mindset and change my perspective. Of course my top pick is Power to Persevere, but there are many more. I started to dive deep into mindset when I was 19 years of age. Here are the top five books I have found to be most helpful in my personal development so far:

The Power of Now

The Secret

The Placebo Effect

The Mindful Women

The Four Agreements

Hey, maybe you have heard of one, two, or all five of these books. Or maybe you have purchased one and have not started it. This is the time to start!

I would love to hear about which books have helped you.

I just finished Almost Everything: Notes on Hope and am almost done with The Path is the Goal. Next on my list is Can’t Hurt Me and You Can Fix Your Brain.

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Mindset power to persevere

Author Your Own Story

Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen…yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.

— BRADLEY WHITFORD

What I have learned from going through my traumatic experience of cancer is that after hitting rock bottom, there really is nowhere else to go but up. This is the lowest point any of us can visit. The only way out is up. This is your time to “Reach for the sky,” as Woody from Toy Story puts it.

Sometimes it is difficult to change your mindset. I battled with pessimism from time to time and had moments of doubt, that cancer would come back. I knew that I would be free from my emotional pain if I stayed consistent by creating positive affirmations, like I discussed previously, but more specifically if I scripted the life I wanted to live in the future.

Purchasing a notebook and practicing this form of writing prospective feelings in present tense onto paper encouraged me to believe that a cancer-free life was possible. It continued to keep my faith high. Sure enough, it worked. To this day, anytime something dreadful happens to me, I turn to my pen and notepad and start to jot down feelings I want to experience in the future.

The reason I hand wrote phrases was because it had the most effectiveness. A study done by Indiana University stated that writing by hand “increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, much like meditation.” We read how meditation had scientific success, so why not try this practice as well? You can reinvent your story with the simple activity of scripting. I wrote down all the positive moments I wished to experience, worked toward them, and then experienced the outcomes.

Here are some of the few phrases I wrote down:

  • I am fueling myself with foods that are helping heal and regenerate my body and am grateful for how much they are energizing me and allowing me to prosper.
    • I am proud of myself for living my life through strength.
    • I feel humbled by the way I am helping heal others and am successfully living my dreams and changing the world.

Read the rest in Power to Persevere here.

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With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

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Mindset power to persevere

JUST PUSH THROUGH IT!

“You have to lift your head up out of the mud and just do it.

— TERI GARR

It is evident that when we experience a troubling emotion or are faced with an upsetting crisis, we feel like there is no possible way to get ourselves out of it. Maybe we think it is unattainable to reclaim our physical health after falling off-track from our mundane routine. Or we may think it is beyond possible to get hired again after being unemployed or losing a job. And for more serious circumstances, maybe we think walking after breaking our leg or recovering from a serious operation is impossible.

This is all imposter syndrome. We are just being too hard on ourselves. How could we know what we can actually achieve if we do not at least try?

For instance, before embarking on my book writing journey, I did not think that it was possible. I had never heard of anyone my age revealing both this much personal information and wisdom to the world in the form of literature. I thought I had to have had many more years of life experience to be where I am today like Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey.

Whenever I had these thoughts, I reminded myself that everyone’s journey is different and age does not justify experience. There are people my age who have gone through worse ordeals that I cannot relate to. And on the contrary, there are also those who have not been through any trauma at all.

One of the people who helped me realize this was Jay Shetty, a viral content creator and award-winning storyteller. I talk about him more in Power to Persevere.

STORY TIME

It is important to go into things with an open mind because chances are you can meet someone who will model it for you. It can be frustrating to jump into something new, but you truly never know who you will meet and what path they will take you on next, which, interestingly enough, links back to two chapters ago.

Something similar happened to Jack Wallace, a US gold medalist Paralympian from New Jersey. At the age of ten, Jack was in a water-skiing accident during the summertime on Lake George after he was pulled underneath a boat by its propeller.

“I was shocked, in pain, and was fading in and out of consciousness. I thought to myself, ‘I am dying,’” he said.”

You can read the rest in Chapter 6 here.

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With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

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Food Mindset power to persevere

Food is Fuel and Heals You

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. Hippocrates

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What you eat affects the way you show up on a day-to-day basis. Whatever you digest turns into energy for your body to use. Food is supposed to nourish you, and when your gut is not absorbing the right nutrients, you will not be able to perform and function at your greatest potential.

Finding a balance with food was something I battled with during my cancer journey. During treatment I lost all sense of taste and the foods I used to enjoy, and I was unable to eat any raw vegetables and fruits, foods that I usually opted for to give me energy. Everything made me nauseous, and between the bottles of steroids I had taken on a daily basis and my infusion cocktail, my gut biome was imbalanced and my body was unable to absorb the nutrients it needed.

It was not until I ended all treatment that I was able to reclaim my health and vitality through FRESH FOOD! Eating clean, organic food has been the best proponent in changing the way I show up every day. You are what you eat, and if you are eating well, then you are fueling the cells that fuel you.

In Power to Persevere, I share a story about how a fellow childhood cancer survivor and friend, Nicole Foster, used food to fuel her after she was done with chemotherapy. She was able to find the strengths in diet, transition her daily intake of food, and reclaim her health and well-being.

Nicole began to eat real, nourishing, whole, plant-based foods and began to incorporate exercise, such as yoga and running, into her daily routine. She started to feel more alive and comfortable in her own skin. With her daily practices of prayer, creative engagement, and positive affirmations, adding this lifestyle change was the missing ingredient to the recipe. She was able to finally persevere. Because of this, she was inspired to use this fuel to help share her grace with others.

“I was given the gift of survival, and two-years post-cancer treatment, I realized I wasn’t living up to my potential. I lost sixty pounds, and my healthier diet made me more…..”

You can read the rest in Chapter 14 here.

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With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

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Lifestyle Mindset power to persevere

Art as a Healer

Do you find that you tend to turn toward activities that you enjoyed as a child? Instead of dancing in a ballet, maybe you attend a performance in a theater, and instead of playing on a tennis team, maybe you take your rackets out on the weekend and play a casual match with friends, or perhaps you take your passion to a new level and pursue it as a career. Either way, these interests and likes trigger internal fireworks. This light helps us persevere.

During treatment, I asked one of my infusion nurses if she could suggest something to me to help me mentally cope with everything I was experiencing. Although I am grateful for the life lessons cancer has taught me, I am also human. I have my moments like everyone, and feeling my body deteriorate was very hard for me to undergo, both physically and mentally.

I knew I needed to find a coping mechanism to release my emotions. It was suggested by my healthcare practitioners that I tap into my childhood hobbies and embrace them. I was always drawn to using creative outlets to center myself from a young age, so I pursued art as my coping mechanism.

Here is a photo next to my art!

I was able to forget about the world around me and home into my true nature through art. I was engaging in an activity that made me feel at home with myself. I was born an artist and finally was able to use art as a way to express what I was unable to articulate in words. I continued to paint every week. One thing lead to another, and something extraordinary occurred.

People started to recognize my passion and order paintings to collect in their homes. Now, I am a commissioned painter. How crazy is that?

Aside from my endeavor, I believe that everyone is an artist at heart. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life,” and I truly believe so. The world is full of creativity. From the architectural details in our homes, to the colors in our wardrobe and the shapes of the magnets on our refrigerator doors, we are constantly surrounded by artistic imagination. It fuels us, defines us, and is in particular meant to heal. It has been proven to help people formulate their emotions to create change.

So, try it out. Engage in creative activity and see what it can bring you.

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

Power to Persevere HERE!

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Mindset power to persevere

Having Faith in a Higher Power can Help you Persevere

We must remember that the mystery of life and the struggles we go through have a message behind them. They are not the end, but rather the beginning of a new chapter. You just need to believe in something larger to get you through your struggle in order to persevere. — Alexa Cucchiara, Power to Persevere

Faith is a very special gift. It is trust in something, or someone, greater. Martin Luther, an influential figure during the Protestant Reformation, defines faith as “a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Just like Luther, I place my faith in God. He is always available for us to turn toward as a divine option. The reason I believe this to be true is because of the relationship I built with him and Jesus through my traumatic experience. Before my diagnosis, I went to heaven and met Jesus. Long story short, he told me these words: “Do not worry, everything is going to be okay.” I held these words close to me throughout my challenging moments during chemotherapy and they ultimately helped me persevere.

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Many have contradicting thoughts on God, but believing in a higher power has healed me in ways I cannot explain. It helps me get through each day. Whenever I feel alone, God allows me to escape that isolation and make me feel like I have a companion. In Power to Persevere I talk about how Pastor Rex Duval (PR) also experienced his warmth and divine nature just moments after he converted his trust in him. PR went from dealing drugs and getting involved in the mafia to living sober and free of pain through his faith.

Evidently, God does not challenge us with difficulties he does not think we could handle, regardless of how horrible they make us feel. In general, troubling times are God’s way of bringing us in closer to his comfort. He uses your hardships as vessels to trusting him. God has made a pathway for our lives, and it is up to us to have faith in him.

Just have a little faith.

I am curious if you also have experienced a moment like ours.

With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

Power to Persevere HERE!

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Mindset power to persevere

Vulnerability as a Virtue

A lot of people would agree that becoming vulnerable is like showing your weakness. What those people do not understand is that it takes a lot of strength and courage to show your true self. It might be one of the most difficult phenomena, but when you express your innermost self, there is no stress. You free yourself from the proverbial weight on your shoulders.

Sometimes we can associate vulnerability with a lack of control or power, but it actually displays great grit. It gives us an opportunity to turn something heavy into something light and manageable. Our secrets can become a sanctuary of safety for others.

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One afternoon at a local store, my cashier complimented me on my buzz cut. I was flattered and accepted her compliment with grace. As I accepted my receipt and started to gather my bags to leave, she continued to speak to me. She shared with me that she also had her head buzzed. “I lost all of my hair to breast cancer over twenty years ago,” she said. I paused and looked at her.

She was my light of hope at that moment. The fact that she was standing alive to this day, cancer-free, made me start to tear up. There was something that motivated me to share my story with her on why my head was buzzed.

She inspired me to take pride in my flaw, to become vulnerable. I told her that my hairstyle was not by choice, but rather because I had cancer and was currently undergoing chemotherapy.

She started to share with me the beauty of coming out on the other side, and encouraged me to keep my faith high because I was going to be okay. At the same time, another woman overheard the conversation and came up to us. She shared with me that she also had cancer. If it was not for these two ladies, I would have never felt comforted by this sense of community when I was the most distraught. With that, I encourage you to share your story to someone else.

How will you be vulnerable?

With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

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Mindset power to persevere

Believing in the Unimaginable

Belief is defined as “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. When you are confident in something, you become certain. When you are certain, you are undoubtedly calm. Without trust, we do not have the power to be calm.

During the remainder of 2017, it was tough for me to be relaxed. I did not think I was going to get better in the timeframe the doctors set because my overbearing fatigue and queasiness took control of my mood. I had forgotten what it felt like to be healthy. And on top of that, my hair kept falling out in clumps. This made me insecure.

I started to develop a victim mentality. Because I was seeing my appearance change right before my eyes, I believed I was dying. Cancer took away the Alexa I knew and left me staring at the reflection of a stranger in the mirror.

With courage, I remembered the reason I lost control of my appearance. It was because I was actually getting healthy. The toxicity of chemotherapy was working, and the cancer cells within me were slowly dying from the poison. Reversing my judgment allowed me to embrace my bald head. This was my opportunity to let the world know that I was a fighter.

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Shortly after, I decided to walk to a local barbershop to shave off my remaining locks. “I need to get a buzz cut,” I told the manager. Puzzled and in shock, he sat me down in a chair. “I am going through chemotherapy and started to lose my hair, so I need you to shave off everything,” I said. I started to feel empowered. A little while later, I walked out onto the streets of Manhattan confidently sporting my newly bald head.

Because I changed my initial insecure beliefs, I began to persevere. I felt like a rock star with conviction. I started to collect photos of women who rocked my hairstyle to inspire me to believe that I could also rock it as well. I made this an opportunity to have fun with my new appearance.I started to believe that I was made to rock this hairstyle and have fun with it. I wore more makeup than usual and tons of jewelry. I wanted to look chic like Amber Rose and bold like Jessie J.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself when I started to lose all of my hair, I took it as an opportunity to lift my spirits and find the positive. Another extraordinary example of someone who I interviewed for my book is from Grace Wethor, an actress, dancer, and model from Minnesota. After she was diagnosed with brain stem glioma, a brain tumor in the pons, she was given an 8 percent survival rate for the upcoming six months. She decided to take this as an opportunity to believe in the unimaginable. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling and acting and has now been striving and living her dream life years later.

See, never doubt your beliefs. Even the impossible can be possible. Just have faith.

Let me know what you dream of doing!

With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

Read # Power to Persevere here !