Alumni Feature: Elisa Marchetti’s Authorship and Victory in the Face of Cancer

by Saundri Luippold

Elisa Marchetti (Rohlwing) ‘04, MBA ‘09, encounters superheroes everyday, and she is one herself. While she does not wear a cape or fight villains, she has faithfully fought a much tougher foe—cancer—as a caretaker. Marchetti shares her story in her debut book “Victory is Ahead,” serving as a testament to hope and spreading the joy of God’s healing.

A few years after moving to Texas in 2014, Marchetti’s son, Sal, was diagnosed with childhood leukemia at just six-years-old, and about 18 months later, her husband, Alex, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Marchetti recalled the elevator ride up to the oncology floor for the first time and being in a numb state. All her life she had used prayer as her lifeline, but in that moment, she could not find the words to pray. She highlighted how the people God placed in her life, along with gentle reminders of His love from the Bible, helped hold up her faith.

“That is why God has given us each other, to reach out and support and pray for each other. God can’t help but listen to His people,” she said.

In addition to her family, Marchetti turned to a few lifelong friends she had made at APU for support. “APU gave me incredible lifelong relationships with people,” she said. After nearly 20 years, she and her three best friends, who she was roommates with, are still close and have gotten to walk alongside each other through each milestone, watching each other raise children, and being a light for one another even while living far apart.

During the years when her son was receiving chemotherapy, Marchetti had multiple outlets and sources that strengthened her faith. “I found I would calm my mind through prayer and journaling,” she said. She found much of her hope through lamenting and was able to come to God with her broken heart, knowing that He would be her refuge in all circumstances. “You don’t have to be perfect, or put together and smiling for God. You can come exactly how you are.”

Marchetti often references Psalm 13, which taught her that even in anger and sadness, God is not afraid of our emotions and we can pour out our heart knowing He’s our authority. “Through lamenting to God and through my prayers, I found my hope. Hope is one of my favorite words in the whole world,” she said with a smile. Marchetti frequently read Psalm 71:14 and 20:4-6 as well, in order to renew her trust throughout the journey.

Even through darkness, Marchetti is a strong believer in seeking light.

“There is joy in every single day,” she said.

She recalled a day in the middle of June, when Sal was receiving music therapy and requested Christmas songs. “Some of our greatest family memories were in the hospital. Even through painful circumstances, there is a joy and a peace that is really only given through God.”

Marchetti also noted a time when it was superhero day at Sal’s school, and he decided to dress up in scrubs to represent the nurses and doctors who were the superheroes in his life. “Superheroes are people who carry our burdens. It’s somebody who walked with you through a hard time. It’s one-on-one. It’s relational. It’s not always the flashy and the glamorous ways that we see a superhero. It’s our parents. It’s our moms. It’s our dads. It’s people who have walked alongside us when we needed help. Those are our superheroes. Those people matter to God, and therefore they should matter to you.”

Thanks to the superheroes at Dallas Children’s Hospital, Baylor, Scott, and White Hospital, both Sal and Alex have been cancer-free for two years now. The Marchettis enjoy spending time together as a family, while Sal explores new activities. He loves playing basketball, video games, and practicing piano. He has grown to love music ever since he started playing during his cancer treatment, which is a skill that Marchetti thanks God for instilling in his life.

Writing her book was a journey that ultimately started before she even knew it began. After Sal and Alex were cancer-free, Marchetti returned to her journals and reflected on the ways God had answered her prayers. She was later connected with a publisher, and decided to share her story in order to uplift people enduring similar situations.

Marchetti reflected on how APU shaped her: “APU continues putting God First in a culture and in a world that is asking for everything else to be first in your life. The university continues to cultivate and strengthen the faith in students,” she said. “I’m grateful for the incredible professors and academics that fostered and shaped who I am.”

Looking back on her college days, Marchetti shared advice she would offer students. “God welcomes our laments. Trust God. Do your best, you’re very best you can that day. If it’s a bad day, lament to God. If it’s a good day, rejoice with God,” she said.

Marchetti spends much of her time sharing her testimony at churches and women’s ministries, as well as providing webinars for people battling cancer in quarantine. She advocates for funding in children’s cancer research, which only receives four percent of all cancer research funds in the U.S., through Wipe Out Kids Cancer, a nonprofit. Marchetti also collaborates with Hope Kids, a nonprofit which supports families battling cancer and other diseases.

Marchetti recently published a workbook to go along with “Victory is Ahead,” so that Bible studies and book clubs can have an additional resource. She ultimately strives to enjoy each day, savor this time with her family, and share her story with others in order to show that with Christ, victory is possible.

Saundri Luippold is a public relations intern in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement. Saundri is double majoring in Honors Humanities and English with a minor in Spanish. She serves as head copy editor of APU's literary journal The West Wind and writes on her personal blog, New Romanticism (