I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma the first week of what was supposed to be my junior year of 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 started to dig deeper and seek help as soon as a lymph node the size of a golf ball popped up above my collarbone.
After months of testing, everything 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 to start chemotherapy right away. This shocked me, and I immediately thought my life was going to end. It was definitely hard to come to terms with the diagnosis I was given, especially at the age of 19. I was angry, shocked, and upset because I lived a healthy life prior to the health complication.
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 I knew that it was going to be the most challenging time of my life, I used this season as an opportunity to discover who I was meant to be on this earth. Through faith, I learned how to persevere. And with time, I embarked on a journey to help others see the purpose behind pain.
It did not come easy, but when I finally started to fight my fears and slowly share my story with friends and then strangers, I was floored by everyone’s encouragement. I knew I had to impact and inspire a wider audience. I then made the decision to share my unique perspective and wisdom. I embarked on an initiative and decided to write a book, Power to Persevere: Inspiring Stories to Help You Get Through Challenging Moments. It was just published in December 2019.
I knew deep down that we all face hardship, so in addition to sharing my personal experience, I decided to share stories about how others have dealt with cancer: from those who lost someone from it, those who were diagnosed with it, and those who experienced limb loss, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and homelessness. I also share advice from health professionals, life coaches, spiritual directors, and other certified professionals. I also include little reflection questions that I asked myself throughout treatment. Some tools that were helpful to me were: acceptance, becoming vulnerable, praying and meditating, learning how to fuel myself through food, and creating affirmations.
I am making it my mission to be the person who I wish I had to look up to during my fight to life. I want others to remember one thing: your life is worth living. 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. 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.
By Alexa Cucchiara