Introduction: Alexandra Gronfors, now a a blood cancer survivor, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma in September 2020. She is passionate about using her fight to better herself and the world around her. Throughout her chemotherapy treatment and beyond, Alexandra has been openly sharing her story on Instagram and YouTube while creating art as a productive outlet.
Getting Diagnosed With Cancer In My 20's
What will you miss most about this time in your life 5, 10, 20 years from now? Life often presents us with challenges, how we choose to perceive these challenges can make or break us. At age 29, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and my little world was flipped upside down! I chose to use this unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to fulfill my passion.
I was always a hard worker. I landed my dream teaching job just 7 months prior to my diagnosis, right when the first wave of COVID-19 hit. During the lockdown, I invested all my extra time into developing a new skill - painting. Within a month of painting intensely, I started selling my work as a side hustle. I went full force with marketing and branding my new little business calling it “Art by Alexandra Gronfors.” Never in a million years did I think that this little side gig would become my full-time passion, purpose, and outlet while fighting cancer.
A few months later I discovered a swollen lymph node on my neck. It was only 7 days after starting my new position, that my doctor called me at work with my diagnosis. Cancer put my life on hold very suddenly and in unimaginable ways.
Switching Gears (And Careers) Due To COVID-19
Due to both cancer and COVID-19, I was unable to work my regular job. This was a job that I had worked years to get and was devastated to give up. My entire life, I had only ever wanted to have my own family. I was faced with possible infertility and a failed long-term relationship only after 1 month of starting chemotherapy treatment.
Cancer stripped me of my hair, making me bald and harming my self-esteem. It forced me to move back home with my parents; I felt like my independence was taken away from me. Chemotherapy was tough on my body and it caused a whole new wave of side effects.
COVID-19 was the cherry on top. Being immunocompromised, I had to completely isolate myself from the outside world. I was a 29-year-old bald, single, cancer-fighting woman, living at home. How did life change so quickly?
These were all new “problems” I had to suddenly learn how to solve. I looked at this negative time in my life and I’ve tried to see my potential. How can I still grow? What will I miss most about this time in my life 5, 10, 20 years from now? I immediately decided that I still had a fire inside of me. Yes, I was upset, heartbroken, exhausted, and scared but I wanted to channel that negative energy into something positive. There was an opportunity there and I’m still SO excited about what I can accomplish. My art.
Art As A Form of Therapy
I have to thank cancer for giving me the opportunity to grow my passion. To grow my small business into something special and completely mine. If it wasn’t for cancer, I wouldn’t have been so successful in my art. I would be too scared of failure. Even with limitations from chemotherapy, free ounce of time and energy was invested into my art - hugely because I wanted to but also because I had to. Without investing my energy into something positive and sustainable, I would feel lost and empty. I would feel like I’m moving backwards. I believe in taking ownership of your life and finding something that drives you. Art has filled that role for me.
Art has no rules. I had to remind myself of this while becoming confident in my own style. I worked hard developing my own technique which has a sense of realism as well as playfulness. I wanted to use art selfishly as a way to joyfully pass my time but also wanted to develop something meaningful for others.
Choosing Positivity And Looking Forward
There are two different avenues my art has taken me on. Commissioned-based art allows me to mix my client’s visions with my own. It helps keep my business sustainable, guarantees to keep me busy, and lights up my clients’ faces! It’s a way to connect with others and give back to the community. I also purposefully carve out time to create my own original pieces. This is where the magic happens as it is truly therapeutic for me. There are no rules here. I play with bright and happy colors to create pieces that I want and pray that someone will see the beauty in it too. Whether commissioned or not, finishing a piece gives me a sense of accomplishment as I’ve created a tangible thing. Even though it’s just a piece of art, I feel like I have moved my life in the direction I want to go.
Life presents us with really hard times - we have the choice to use that negative energy and turn it into something good or throw pity parties. For the record, I throw pity parties occasionally by recognizing the hardship I feel, but by also creating an action plan to move forward afterward. Sometimes that action plan requires A LOT of patience and means just starting one new painting. Even the small baby steps are still steps to move my life forward in the direction I want to go. At the end of treatment, these small steps have made me into the person I am now.
Even to this day, every time I’m down, I think to myself “What will I miss about this time in my life?”
If you are looking for more resources and support for those going through chemotherapy, check out our other blogs:
What are some other therapeutic outlets you have discovered during cancer treatment? Let us know in the comments. We love hearing from our community members! If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us for more information.