Rachel Kachnycz is a 24-year-old-woman from Ambler who, at 23, was diagnosed with brain cancer (grade III anaplastic astrocytoma). In this blog, she tells us about where she has come from, and how she is living her life full of positivity. Rachel blogs regularly at Live for Something.
Hello, it's nice to meet all of you. I am Rachel Kachnycz, a 24-year-old woman from Ambler, Pennsylvania.
I started out my life under interesting circumstances. Both of my parents brought a child to their marriage: my father brought my oldest sister, Alice, and my mother brought my other sister, Ardy. My mom was a teacher in Philadelphia, my dad a carpenter turned manufacturers' representative. I was the singular child of their marriage. When I was just seven years old, my mother was diagnosed with both thyroid and lung cancer. She died in 1998 at the age of 39. Her death was untimely to say the least. As a child, I understood how momentous a loss I had endured, but I simply had to soldier on through life.
My sole thought was to keep my life together, like a Jenga game, and not let myself fall apart despite losing many of my pieces. In 2011, I became a Bryn Mawr alumna, with a degree in linguistics and languages, specifically Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. I spent a summer in Qingdao, China studying Chinese, and I am waiting for my opportunity to visit Japan.
After finishing school, I was lost. I lived in an apartment and had a part-time job as a stylist at a clothing boutique, but I did not know what my next step would be. I found out there was a bigger plan for me when, on September 30, 2012, I was diagnosed with brain cancer (grade III anaplastic astrocytoma).
Though this diagnosis came to me as a shock, I think that in life we get that for which we ask. I needed something to make me put my silly anxieties and my entire life into perspective. I needed to truly appreciate the opportunity that I have here on this earth. Now I can say that I do.
Fast-forward to now, after a craniotomy and months of radiation and chemotherapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, I am a cancer survivor with a duty to help people who are in similar straits. I have found that blogging throughout my cancer journey helped me to express myself, and I recommend recording your experiences as they occur.
It is all about the now. During treatment, I found out that I have a TP53 genetic mutation, passed on through my mother, which results in Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a disease that leaves me 25 times more likely to get soft tissue cancers, and more susceptible for my prior brain cancer to return. I have become an advocate for early screening and genetic testing. I am alive, and I have an obligation to myself to make the cancer experience less lonely for others.
The key is that I do not let the odds stop me. I truly believe that our attitudes define our realities. If I gave into the survival rates, I would be asking for illness to return. Instead, I focus on the things that make me happy and make me want to live a long life.
I volunteer with multiple programs: a pet adoption agency, the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association, and through Penn as a Proton Treatment Alumna, mentoring those going through treatment. I also tutor English as a second language, and help out with tutoring at the local elementary schools.
What I plan to do through my blog series is to show you that no matter what, the good in life outweighs the bad. Our minds, bodies, and spirits are one, and we must hone in on the positive. By being grateful for the beautiful moments in each day, we are truly living.
Rachel continues to write about her experiences on her personal blog Live for Something.
Hear More Patient Stories