Meet Alexa Cucchiara
Young cancer survivor offers lessons in resilience
Alexa Cucchiara was a vibrant, healthy and driven college student and artist. She excelled in the classroom, ate organic foods and exercised regularly. When she experienced unusual fatigue, night sweats and a sudden lump in her collarbone, she knew something wasn’t right.
The campus nurse suspected mono but encouraged Alexa to return home for further testing. Blood work, scans, a fine needle biopsy and an MRI revealed nothing abnormal. Believing she had a swollen lymph node from fighting off an infection, Alexa returned to school to finish the semester. But that summer, her exhaustion continued, now coupled with a rash spreading across her neck and chest. The lump in her collarbone never diminished. Preparing to study abroad the following semester, she wisely went for a second opinion.
Alexa’s doctor took one look at the lump’s size and location and immediately scheduled a surgical biopsy. A week later, the pathology report confirmed Hodgkin lymphoma. Alexa froze in disbelief.
According to the National Institutes of Health, lymphoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in adolescents (aged 15 to 19 years). Lymphoma accounts for 21% of new diagnoses; almost two-thirds are Hodgkin lymphoma. Thanks to years of research, Hodgkin lymphoma is a highly curable cancer.
Alexa immediately moved back home and faced a deluge of appointments, procedures and chemotherapy, far away from her college freedom. Instead of researching cancer treatments and outcomes, Alexa researched how to cope. “I was the youngest person I knew with cancer,” she recalls. “I felt alone and isolated.” She wanted to hear other cancer experiences and drew inspiration from stories of Anthony Rizzo and James Connor, athletes who overcame Hodgkin lymphoma.
After months of tough days, grueling treatments and hospitalizations, Alexa is now cancer-free and a recent Fordham University graduate. To Alexa, Victory Over Cancer® means finding inner resilience. Through public speaking and writing a book on perseverance, Alexa is on a mission to help people facing cancer and other challenges. “Trust the battle you are going through and know that it is happening for a reason – a reason to grow stronger and live your best life,” she said.
V Foundation Thrivers share a common trait: They do not let cancer define them. Innovative cancer research enables them to thrive, and their Jim Valvano “Don’t Ever Give Up!” spirit gives them the courage and drive to help others on their own journeys.
Without research and technology, I would not be alive right now. I got a second chance at life.