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Life

HOW TAKING MY HEALTH INTO MY OWN CARE SAVED MY LIFE

From before my diagnosis to middle of treatment, I captured my journey through photos.

THE STORY LEADING UP TO MY CANCER DIAGNOSIS …

I am fortunate to say that I had great health as a child and teenager. My parents would only serve me fresh organic food and make sure I took my vitamins everyday. I had so much energy and always stayed active. The only thing I wrestled with was cystic acne and digestive issues due to my intolerance to lactose. I thought these problems were difficult to manage, but it was not until halfway throughout college that I got a sense of what health complications really looked like; my life completely turned upside down.

It all started in the beginning of my sophomore year. The second semester something frightening happened to me. I started to experience unforeseen anxiety, developed rashes all over my chest and back, and had night sweats which caused me to wake up in damp pajamas in the middle of the night. I knew something in my body was not right. It was not until a lymph node the size of a golfball popped up above my collarbone (March 2017) that I started to become very concerned. I was very confused and immediately dismissed myself from the room, went to the lavatory, took a photo of myself in the mirror and sent it to my mother. She suggested I go to the medical center on campus.

After taking blood tests and receiving the reports back, I was told that nothing was wrong and I was told that my body was probably fighting off a virus. They had suggested I visit an ENT at home just to make sure I was okay. During my visit with this doctor, I went through a series of exams including: a nasoendoscopy, MRI, and fine-needle biopsy. The results: negative, negative, and negative. Even my internist said there was nothing wrong with me. I thought this was peculiar. I let my fears release themselves as I complied to the medical professionals.

Still, deep down I knew something was wrong. My parents agreed. I figured it would be a good idea to get further testing (August 2017) before going back to school and traveling abroad for a semester with my classmates. I went to another ENT and was told within seconds that the size was abnormally large and that the area it was in was concerning. He said I needed to go in for surgery, that I could not let it wait any longer. Although I was afraid to go under the knife, I knew that it was the best thing for my health. I scheduled a biopsy, and a week later my pathology report came back positive (September 2017). I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had to start chemotherapy right away. I was 19, and was not ready for this battle. Needless to say, I persevered and survived.

If it was not for me to listen to my intuition and keep visiting doctors, I would have not come to this diagnosis. Who knows how long I would have gone without the answers I needed. The situation could have gotten worse and my prognosis could have been more serious. With that, I encourage you to also take your life into your own hands if you feel like something is wrong. Fight for your health because your life is worth living!

You can read my full story here.

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Food

FAVORITE NON-PERISHABLES DURING THE COVID-19 QUARANTINE

Although many of us can be tempted to binge on a bag of chips (guilty!) or eat an entire package of cookies in one seating during the coronavirus quarantine, we can actually serve our bodies with healthy non-perishables. It can be tricky (trust me I struggled with finding healthy options), but it is possible. Out of sight of of mind! You eat what is in front of you, so if you fill your pantry will healthy alternatives, you will be able to fuel your body without stressing out about going off track your diet.

I walk through the options I have chosen on my YouTube channel. I opted for foods that are full of fiber and high in protein. You can view more on my Amazon Associates page.

Here is a list of what I stocked up on:

In addition to these non-perishables, I have been eating fresh carrots, frozen broccoli, frozen berries, and sweet potato. I have been able to stay full and fueled 10 days into the quarantine so far. My meals consist of smoothies, soups, and beet burgers (recipe coming soon). I usually do not eat tomato and beans because I find that they inflame me. However, I have been indulging. I know that this is only temporary, and these healthy options will help me get by for the time-being.

I would love to hear how you are staying healthy during this time.

Remember, stay safe and strong!

Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
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!

Categories
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

Categories
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 !

Categories
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