CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46) - Alex Marshall is a five time All-American Swimmer at Queens University of Charlotte, but the joy of her success was overshadowed by a cancer diagnosis. Like a true champion, she underwent strenuous treatment and is ready to bring more championships back to the city and her school.
Alex will tell you the best part of her day is when she's gliding through the water.
"It is just pure happiness and kind of an escape in my own little world," the Queens junior tells FOX 46 Charlotte.
She spends an average of four hours a day, six days a week in the pool. The hours of practice have paid off. Her sophomore year she was named a five time All-American, earning conference championships in three events and an NCAA championship in the 400 Yard Freestyle Relay.
"It makes getting up early, it makes doing the two-a-days and the weight practices, it makes everything all that more worth it."
Alex was at the height of her swimming career, heading into her junior season when her world was turned completely upside down.
"I had pressure on my chest, I had difficulty breathing and I would swim a lap and I would be coughing up a lung," Alex said. "I would say 'this isn't normal.'"
Alex was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and immediately started chemotherapy.
“I just went completely numb, every ounce of energy that’s in your body, completely drained, and I just, it was a good thing I was sitting on a couch when I found out my diagnosis cause or I would have just completely crumbled right then and there.”
After six months the champion swimmer received great news--- she was cancer free. Her next step was to get back in the water.
“I remember that day I jumped in the water and I sat at the bottom of the pool for a couple seconds, of just taking it all in of, I’m in the pool right now, I’m in my happy place, for the first time in a really long time.
Her coaches and teammates looked on as she slowly worked her way back.
“I had fear and I was trying to be tough and this rock, but she really led the way and said ,'I need this from you,'" says Jeff Dugdale, head coach of Queens Swimming. "And because she was so resolute and because she was so steadfast it made it very clear and helped me not go above and beyond anything she needed.”
By January 2017, Alex started to feel like her old self in the water.
"To be here now is a bit surreal," Alex says. "But it's surreal in a good way."