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Life

Changing Paths Half Way Through College

Ciao amici, I wanted to repost some of the questions I had with my interview with the platform called The Power Thread. It walks through my journey in life in college. I was born and raised in Manhattan, moved to Poughkeepsie for two years for school, and found my way back home where I had to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This led me to transfer schools, find my way writing a book, and overall change the direction of my life.

Life changed for the best, and I hope this helps you going through your battle as well. Read more below!

Alexa, where are you from?

I’m from Manhattan: Manhattan-born and raised.

Where did your interest in art start?

I was born an artist and creative. I used to create collages out of pasta and pompoms or cut paper into shapes that would form into shirts and dresses I could wear around my home. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I took classes at SVA, The Art Students League of New York, and at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In high school, my art was published in a book, and I was the winner of an art show. I even started the fashion club at my high school and began my own jewelry business, known as One Twist Co. The jewelry company was accidental. I made a ring for myself and a friend and posted it on Instagram. People started to place informal orders, which then influenced me to scale it and launch my own ecommerce store. I was able to take my creativity and tie it with my entrepreneurial spirit. It was a cool way to build something that I had total ownership over.

Where did you first go to college, and why?

I went to Marist College to primarily study business and fashion. After getting a feel of how to run a business in high school, my interest for business developed along with my interest in the fashion industry.

When were you diagnosed with cancer, and how did you come about your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed the first week of what was supposed to be my junior year at Marist College back in 2017. From the beginning of the year, I didn’t feel right. I was experiencing unexplainable anxiety, fatigue, and night sweats. I didn’t think much about it, but I knew something was wrong as soon as a lymph node the size of a golf ball popped up above my collar bone. This is when I started to dig deeper. Although all of the tests I went through came back negative, I proceeded to search for an answer. I scheduled a biopsy, and a week later when the pathology report came back, it was confirmed that I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I had to start chemotherapy right away.

What was your reaction to being diagnosed with cancer?

I saw cancer take my grandfather’s life, so I thought I also was going to die.  I was 19 years old and was not ready to fight for my life at such a young age. I was angry, shocked, and upset.  I ate healthy and exercised daily, so this diagnosis did not make sense. It took a long time to process everything, but with time, I realized that cancer was my greatest blessing. It happened for, not to, me. Although it was going to be the most challenging time of my life, I used it as an opportunity to discover who I was meant to be on this earth. Through faith I persevered.

What were some of the largest challenges of going through chemotherapy?

When I found out I was diagnosed, I didn’t understand the complexity of my situation. After having five procedures within the first month of my diagnosis, I came to terms with reality and took a leave of absence from school for the year. The first thing that I battled with was leaving behind my friends and academic career. I was always a diligent worker and putting a pause on everything I worked so hard to achieve was discouraging.

Before treatment started, I also cut all of my hair off and donated it in the event that I was going to lose it all. I am so happy I did this because, after my second treatment, my hair on my scalp started to fall out in clumps, and I had to shave it all off. It was really difficult to watch myself go through this dramatic physical change.

What were some activities you did to manage the stress of this experience?

I mainly resorted to painting to destress and free my mind. It was a good way to express my emotions onto canvas. I also made sure I went on walks and got fresh air every day, even if it was just for ten minutes. I read many self-help books, watched pastors and spiritual coaches speak about their perspective of life on YouTube, and listened to motivational podcasts on Spotify, my favorite being Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday.

When did you learn you were cancer free, and what did you learn from going through chemotherapy?

Half way through chemotherapy I had scans to make sure that the treatment was working. The scans were clear, but I still had to undergo the remaining four treatments to steer clear of everything.

I learned a lot about myself throughout this season of my life. I now know my values, what is worth fighting for, and who I want to be going forward in life. I do not take anything for granted, health included, and count my blessings and pray every day.

After going through treatment, I have also become much more compassionate and built so much resilience and confidence. Nothing scares me anymore. There were times I was crawling on the floor because I was so weak, and moments I wanted to die. I knew that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, so I placed my faith in God to keep my spirits high. It worked.

I always think to myself, “if I can beat death, I can do anything.”  And the truth of the matter is, anyone can do anything. Remember, challenging moments are meant to mold and shape you. In order to grow, you have to go through pain. It is when you start to believe and trust in the pain that you will persevere. The best is yet to come, just have faith!

Are you still facing challenges? 

Healing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and a lot of patience, maybe even a lifetime. It has only been two years since I have been out of treatment. Even though it is over, I’m reminded of everything I went through every time I see the scars on my body. Instead of being ashamed of them, I now look at them with pride. In general, changing my perspective is what has helped me reclaim my life back. And, two years out, I finally feel like my old self again. My hair is almost as long as it was before treatment, and I can finally engage in physical activities that I enjoyed prior to this all. I was definitely born again, and I am excited to see what life will bring me next.

When did you transfer to Fordham?

I transferred to Fordham the year I ended treatment. Although it was a very spontaneous decision, I knew that continuing my academic career closer to home was going to serve me best. It was very scary for me to start this new chapter of life in an unfamiliar environment, but I looked at it as another chance to experience growth.

How did you decide to write a book?

The thought of writing a book started while I was going through treatment. At first, my friends and I would joke around about it, but there was always this little voice in the back of my head that kept encouraging me to share my perspective, wisdom, and story with a wider audience. I had a casual phone interview with someone for a book, and I was then connected to their publisher. It wasn’t until this past February that I really focused on writing it. I recently had it published on December 2, 2019.

What does it mean for you to be powerful?

Taking control of your life and listening to your intuition is what makes you powerful. I think life is a gift and should be lived through the purpose that it was given. You may not exactly know your purpose right away, but if you keep trying new things, you will find it. Any challenge and experience will help you discover who you are and what you’re meant to do. When listening to my intuition, I started to understand my life’s purpose. I knew I needed to help others, and the way I was going to do that was through my word. This is why I decided to write a book. During moments of doubt, I would ask myself how I would live if I were to die tomorrow. I knew that I would have at least wanted to leave something that others could learn from. When I started living from my heart and out of fear, I reclaimed my power.

Do you have a favorite product or item you love that makes you feel powerful?

I made myself a gold shark tooth necklace when I was going through chemotherapy to remind myself that I was a warrior. Everytime I wear it, I remember my moments of strength and feel powerful.

Do you have any other favorite books you recommend we read?

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and Everyday Grace: Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness, And Making Miracles by Marianne Williamson are my two favorites!

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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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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 !

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Mindset power to persevere

Find Strength Within

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… Understand two things: you are capable of changing your life, and you are strong enough to have the courage to reach a goal and pursue a dream. If someone else is doing it, you can do it too. — Alexa Cucchiara, Power to Persevere

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The challenging moments we are faced are opportunities for us to try something new and break out of our comfort zones. We ultimately have nothing to lose. In my eyes, you only have something to gain.

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.

In Power to Persevere, I talk about a few people who were able to break out of their comfort zones to create a new and extraordinary life:

  • Jay Shetty
  • Jack Wallace
  • Jack Witherspoon

Jay turned his experience as a monk into providing value to others in the corporate work space, Wallace turned his boating accident into a drive to learn sled hockey and win gold at Paralympic contests, and Witherspoon turned his passion for cooking when he was going through chemotherapy into a brand at the age of six.

The world is your oyster. You never know how the next chapter of your life will open up for you. Use your interests to ultimately help you persevere in life.

How will you step out of your comfort zone?

With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

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Mindset power to persevere

The First Step to Perseverance is Acceptance

If you are reading this right now, you are probably looking for hope. Perhaps you are in physical pain, or maybe you are emotionally distraught. You might be searching for a way out of your discomfort, or for a glimmer of light and hope. Maybe you feel discouraged and are afraid to try a new experience and need guidance, or perhaps you know someone else who is in desperate need of a reset and is using this book to help them. Before I found peace in what was weighing me down, I went through these same trials. — Alexa Cucchiara, Power to Persevere

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Sometimes we think that we are immune to everything and anything until that something hits you. Never in a million years did I think I would have been dealt with my battle, but I was tested and overcame it all by acceptance. This is one of the first themes I discuss in Power to Persevere. At first, I had a hard time accepting all that I was going through. It was not until a little over a year ago that I came to terms with my reality and became motivated to become vulnerable to make a change in the world. From the moment of my diagnosis, I knew that I was experiencing this heart-ache for a reason. I knew I was meant to use my experience to help other people. Funny enough, someone had mentioned to me a few weeks prior that the purpose of my life was meant to help others. How was I going to do that if I had not accepted what I went through?

The first step I took in this process was helping Melody Lomboy-Lowe and Gracelyn Bateman through Luna Peak Company’s cancer survivor book #ProjectInspireHope. I had a hard time deciding whether or not to participate in their initiative and have my face and story in a book, but then I reflected on my plans to help others through my battle. I took a leap of faith and thought if this was my last day on Earth, I would want to spend it by impacting someone else to help them live. After the photoshoot and interview, I felt like a light within me was ignited.

From this moment on, I was able to have the courage within me to then write a book. I am so happy I proceeded to do so because I have been encouraging and helping so many people just in the small amount of time.

  • Alexa, thank you for sharing your message.
  • Alexa, what you are doing is amazing.
  • Alexa, you have helped me so much already, and I have not even read your book yet.
  • Alexa, you are inspiring me to change my life.

This is not even a tenth of all of the messages I have received. I am humbled and grateful, but the only way I was able to impact others was through acceptance. I encourage you to come to terms with the battle you are given in order for others to follow. Recognizing your reality is a closer step to overcoming your pain.

I would love to hear what you have done after accepting one of your challenging moments.

With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

Power to Persevere: buy here.

Categories
Mindset power to persevere

How to Create a Positive Perspective

Changing the way you look at the obstacles and challenges you are faced with can play a key role in the way you live your everyday life. It will allow you to turn dark into light and sorrow into peace. It first comes down to perspective which is the attitude you adopt for a given circumstance. — Alexa Cucchiara, Power to Persevere

If you read my last post, you have learned that the first way to persevere is through acceptance. Once you accept, you have come to terms with reality. When you come to terms with reality, you can transform the way you perceive your circumstance. You now have the ability to positively shift your mindset.

In Chapter 3 of Power to Persevere, I discuss the importance of changing perspective. For any unfavorable thing that happened to me when I was going through chemotherapy, I trained myself to turn the negative experience into something positive. For example, one treatment the nurses could not access my port catheter although we spent hours preparing for infusion. I found out I had a blood clot and had to travel to a different location to get an injection to reverse it and then travel all the way back to my infusion center the next day. I was upset, but then used this as an opportunity to enjoy the rest of my day and spend my night eating one of my favorite meals, something that I would have not been able to do caused by excessive nausea I would have experienced after chemotherapy. I practiced these small shifts in perspective and now I can say that I automatically trained myself to take a negative experience to be positive.

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Larissa May, founder of #HalfTheStory, shared her story with me on how she did this as well. She used her experience with depression to create a community on social media.This then turned into a platform that connected thousands across the world. Today, @halfthestory has over twenty-five thousand followers and has been represented in over eighty countries. They are continuing their mission to allow others to look at both sides of someone’s story to ignite perspective and compassion. Instead of using social media as a way to celebrate success, the platform has been inspiring others to reveal their realities.

“Believe in yourself and do it. So, just have faith. I launch my rockets and hope they land somewhere among the stars.” — Larissa May.

Some ways you can shift your perspective is by making a pros and cons list. Grab a piece of paper and divide the sheet into two columns. On the left, write the pros, and the right, the cons. This will help you visually see the best- and worst-case scenarios and that the latter may be a list of silly excuses or simply unlikely possibilities.

Let me know what you put on our list.

With love,

AC

Connect with me!

Instagram: @alexacuc

Email: alexacucc@gmail.com

Power to Persevere: buy here.