Trust the Battle
Full Name: Alexa Cucchiara
Type of Cancer: Hodgkin's Lymphoma
“There is much more to life than we could ever imagine. We have to trust that our tragedies have meaning and purpose in our lives—that they are meant to mold us into the best version of ourselves.” – Alexa Cucchiara, Power to Persevere
Once 2017 came around I knew my life was going to change. I did not know what was going to happen, but I knew it was going to be big. I had just got accepted into a competitive internship and was convinced that my career was going to take off in the upcoming years, something that I was preparing hard to achieve during my academic career.
Throughout the latter part of my sophomore year of college, I started to experience unusual anxiety and night sweats. To top it off, a lump the size of a golf ball popped up right above my collarbone. I did not feel normal and had a gut feeling something was wrong. After a series of blood tests, an MRI, and a fine needle biopsy, every test came back negative. I let it go and trusted my reports, but there was a little part of me that knew something was not right. I scheduled an appointment with another doctor to get a second opinion.
The week before my junior year of college I had a surgery to take out the suspicious swollen lymph node, and days later I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Healthy my whole life, I was perplexed by this diagnosis. Cancer was the last thing on my mind. Instead of joining my peers back at school, I had to take off the year to fight for my life. This is something I could not quite comprehend and wrap my head around at 19 years of age. Just a few days after I turned 20, I started chemotherapy.
Although I was shocked by this news, I knew I was given this battle for a reason. God had a higher purpose and mission for this season of my life. Before my first PET/CT scan I was comforted by his grace and was reminded that I needed to undergo this traumatic experience for him. He was going to get me through it. I just needed to trust in the chaos of it all. Reminding myself of this is what helped me get through it all.
It was neither easy nor pleasant, of course. There were many times I wanted to quit treatment because I could not stand to see and feel myself deteriorate before my eyes. Between the shots I had to give myself in my stomach, the containers of pills I had to take every day, and four-hour-long drips I had to sit through every other week, my mentality was the only thing that got me through. I had no choice but to find the little strength left in me to keep pushing. My fortitude helped me see that we have to go through the dark days to see the light. I had to be my own advocate, through faith, and inspire myself to persevere.
Fast forward months later when treatment was over, the hair on my head grew back like a Chia Pet sprouting its little green leaves, my skin glowed back with olive pigment, and my body strengthened enough to exercise again. All of these small milestones that seemed almost impossible and out of reach were actually conceivable. Within them, I was beginning to remember how it felt to be alive. I was born again and slowly started to appreciate my second chance of life. This was a gift I did not want to take for granted. I wanted to serve it with purpose, and the only way I could do that was by becoming vulnerable.
It was scary at first to think that I was going to put my story out there, but then I had a thought. One afternoon I said to myself, “if today was my last day on Earth, I would want to leave with legacy, and if that meant to tell the world about my history, then so let it be.” If my story would help even just one person live, then I was going to share it. This is when I decided to actually start to be more public about my battle.
I trusted the purpose behind my pain, and within time I began to write about it. At the beginning of 2019, I decided to put my pen to paper and write a book to spread my light and wisdom. I just published my first book, Power to Persevere, and now know that everything I experience was worth it. I am now about to wrap up my senior year of college, something that I did not think was possible just two years ago, and start living a purposeful and purpose-filled life. I am grateful for cancer because it shaped me into the courageous young adult I am today. I encourage you to trust in your battle and know that there is a purpose that it serves. I think to myself all the time, “I could beat death, I could do anything,” and so can you.