For this Faces of Blue, Alexa is interviewed by Rebecca Marshall-Howarth, a volunteer with Get Your Rear in Gear – Boston.
Volunteer with Get Your Rear in Gear – Boston, Alexa Morell, a 29-year-old wife and mother from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, is currently being treated for Stage IVa colon cancer. She is happily married to her wonderful husband Ryan and they have a 20-month-old, Maddox, who is their entire world. She works full time (mostly from home these days) in sales for Informatics. Her customers are from pharma/biotech and use Informatics scientific software solutions to develop drugs faster and are used in clinical trials. They’re working hard to cure diseases like colon cancer.
They love being outside as a family whether it’s to the dog park with their two dogs or to a local farm. They really love living in New England and enjoy spending time on Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, NH, VT, and Maine throughout the year.
We asked Alexa to tell us her story.
Can you tell us about your diagnosis? What were your early symptoms? What did you think it might be before you learned it was cancer?
I stress this to everyone because it’s important. I have been healthy my entire life. I only had symptoms for TWO WEEKS. That’s it! The only symptom that I had was blood in my stool which prompted me to make an appointment with my PCP and then a GI. I had a colonoscopy 11 days later and the results from that showed a large abnormal mass in my sigmoid colon. A couple of days and a few biopsies later, we learned that it had spread to my liver and that I was considered stage 4a. My team and I are confident we’re going for the cure here!
Can you share your treatment plan (radiation, surgery, chemo, etc.)?
The plan from the beginning was 12 rounds of FOLFOXIRI (the strongest regimen of chemo for colon cancer) and two surgeries. I have had eight rounds and a 65% liver resection/gallbladder removal was done this past December. I have four more rounds and one more two-part surgery in May. I should be done with chemotherapy by the end of April and should hopefully wake up from surgery May 20th cancer free.
What does it mean to you to stay positive? Can you tell us about a time you had trouble being optimistic?
I think that it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions. When I was told I had stage IV cancer, I initially thought it was a death sentence and was petrified. My oncologist differentiating stage IVa and operable versus stage IVb/non operable made all of the difference. For me, my son and my family keep me going. I still do things that bring me joy and try to live in the moment. As much as this is a physical battle, it’s very much mental as well.
Staying positive is something that I must do as being negative and depressed negatively affects how our bodies respond to treatment. The second I got diagnosed I sought out stage III and IV survivors. Their stories of life after cancer keep me very hopeful that I too will be cancer free someday soon.
Can you recall a moment during treatment when you felt afraid?
I think the beginning was the worst. Not knowing if and how I would respond to chemo was torture. For the most part, I am very hopeful and happy as much as I can be. I will say that my times of sadness and anxiety happen a lot at night. I’m so busy most days that I don’t have time to think too much about everything.
What is/was your greatest struggle while in treatment?
Trying to maintain normalcy with family while also being sick and tired is tough. My son is 20-months-old and has no idea what’s going on which is honestly good for me. But he does have an endless amount of energy and I do my best to keep up.
What are you most looking forward to right now?
I look forward to every single day with my family. Some of the big things on my list are my son’s second birthday, summer vacations, and our trips that we’re taking in the fall and winter once this cancer battle is won. We’re going to Disney in September and the Bahamas in December and I cannot wait.
Your story will be read by people who contribute and participate in Get Your Rear in Gear – Boston. If you had a chance to send a message to those people, what would you say to them?
My advice is to cling to any and all good news that you have, lean on those you love, and fight like hell.