IN AWE OF ALEXA
Heads up: Alexa is a total badass. At 16 she was an all-state gymnast when she wasdiagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. 10 years later, she still lives with cancer but is absolutely thriving as a professional wakeboarder. No really: she travels the world competing, reps the top wakeboarding brands, appears on ESPN, and is even publishing a memoir depicting her cancer journey this fall. We’re in AWE of how she’s defied expectations and embraces the AWEsomeness of the world around her.
IN HER WORDS
“Pause, take a deep breath, and take advantage of the beauty around us.”
“Take advantage of the opportunity to look and feel good from the inside out while giving your body the best chance at a long, healthy, and happy life. You won’t regret it.”
“What makes you happy? Corn dogs, loon hats, and good friends do the trick for me. :)”
I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia as a sixteen year old growing up in a small Minnesota town. At the time, I was an all-state gymnast, ranked at the top of my class in academics, and had the world at my fingertips, so being diagnosed with cancer was quite a shock. Shortly after diagnosis, I grew very ill. The prognosis of my situation was unclear, as I opted not to have a bone marrow transplant and instead tried a very new and relatively unknown drug called Gleevec. As the weeks passed, my cancer counts miraculously dropped, but I grew sicker and sicker by the day. I slept 16-20 hours, relied on friends and family to drive/carry me to class. I couldn’t eat and was too weak to even stand in the shower. My biggest struggle was with bone pain. It felt like my bones were exploding all-day everyday.
One of my darkest moments came one morning while lying alone in my bed. I was shocked and devastated when I was too weak to sit up. Forced to stay laying down, I contemplated life and wondered how long one can live in that state. In the weeks that followed, my cancer counts continued to drop, but the pain grew worse. I was unable to practice or compete at gymnastics almost the entire season due to the pain, despite my desperate efforts. On the night before the state-qualifying gymnastics tournament, my father found me at the base of ourstairs, too weak to walk or even yell for help. That night, he and my doctor came up with a hopeful solution for the pain. What happened the following day is nothing short of crazy! But for the rest of the details you will have to read my memoir, slated to be published in Fall/Winter 2017!
Ten years later, I still take a daily dose of oral chemotherapy and likely will for the rest of my life (or until my cancer becomes resistant to the drug). Despite dealing with the effects of cancer and the treatment for the past ten years, I managed to graduate high school early and move to Florida to pursue my dream of becoming a professional wakeboarder, received a finance degree from theUniversity of Central Florida, appear on TV for the likes of Travel Channel, MTV, and ESPN, appear in commercials, print, and video ads for brands such as Hard Rock Cafe, LifeProof, Liquid Force, and others, and have also spent countless hours raising money and awareness for charities such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and BeTheMatch.org. I’m happy and healthy and don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon!
APPRECIATING LIFE + CANCER
Even before being diagnosed with leukemia I had a deep appreciation for life, and my journey has only reinforced that. I find great importance in taking care of my body and appreciate my health more and more each day I live with cancer. I stay very active, whether that’s working out in the gym, doing yoga, surfing, playing tennis, golfing, hiking, biking, etc. I love playing! Not to mention I find it equally as beneficial for the mind as the body. Having cancer is not ideal, but it has been a rewarding and enriching experience. I am so grateful for the advanced treatments available for my disease, the support of loved ones, and the opportunities it has presented over the past ten years!
ALEXA ON CML-AWARENESS DAY
Per the usual, I forgot to post on 9/22, National CMLAwareness Day, but I guess it's okay because for me, everyday is CML Day...Chronic Myeloid Leukemia is a little different than other cancers, as there is no way of early detection nor are there any clear ways to prevent the disease from forming. So instead of making your "aware" of CML, I want totake this day to remind you all the importance of taking care of your bodies and minds. Though CML may not be preventable, MANY forms of cancer and other deadly diseases are. We not only have the opportunity to treat our bodies withrespect, but I feel it is also our responsibility to do so. MOVE your bod, EAT REAL food, heck maybe even feel your boobs today (to check for lumps, of course). Take advantage of the opportunity to look and feel good from the insideout while giving your body the best chance at a long, healthy, and happy life.You won't regret it. Happy Fri/CML-Day.
CONNECT WITH KENDYL