My guest on this episode is Rachel Mehl. She was first diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in February 2016, followed by a recurrence of not only ductal carcinoma but also a rare form of breast cancer, metaplastic breast cancer. Rachel was then diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in her lung. We talked about her diagnoses, course of treatment, and the decision she made to create her own healing path.
Rachel Mehl was diagnosed with stage 2, triple-negative invasive ductal carcinoma at the age of 38. She had treated herself to a float tank session for her 38th birthday and while showering after her session, she noticed a lump in her right breast near her armpit that caused her to pause. She called a friend who suggested it may be a cyst and then followed up with her gynecologist the following week, who also suggested it may have been a cyst.
When she received the phone call following the diagnostic testing, Rachel thought for sure they would tell her that it was a cyst and was taken back by the news that it was in fact cancer. She snapped into action mode and started to process what she needed to do to take care of the cancer. She wasn’t ready to talk with anyone so she sent a mass text message to family and friends to tell them that it was cancerous.
Rachel underwent chemotherapy first followed by a lumpectomy and then radiation. She showed no evidence of disease for 2 years following her lumpectomy but there was something in the same area where she had found the original lump that bothered her. She was told that it was likely nothing but the lump nagged at Rachel. She massaged it and used essential oils. At her follow-up mammogram, she asked her doctor to take another look at the films despite the fact that the mammogram was clear.
She really viewed this as an adventure and had thought that it would be a one and done but after her doctor looked at the films again, she realized that there was something not right about the lump. A biopsy revealed that the cancer had returned but the mastectomy showed that she had invasive ductal carcinoma and metaplastic breast cancer, which is a rare form of breast cancer that is not well researched and is known to be chemo-resistant.
Rachel had done chemotherapy prior to the mastectomy, which showed no real benefit and despite the fact that metaplastic is known to be chemo-resistant, her doctor had recommended additional chemo. Rachel sought out a second opinion with the same recommendation from her doctor but after doing her own research, she opted to create her own healing plan of spending time with family and friends, and building her community.
In the course of having a regular scan, found a nodule on her lung that turned out to be a metastasis of the original breast cancer. Her doctor had recommended immunotherapy but Rachel again opted to wait on doing immunotherapy. Currently, she has shown no evidence of disease. Rachel feels like denial has carried her through most of her experience. Right now, she does not feel like she truly has a seat at the metastatic table but has one foot in and one foot out.
The statistics for triple-negative breast cancer survival are not good and the stats for metaplastic breast cancer is even worse. She has created a story for herself that has caused her to keep potential partners at arm’s length in hopes of preventing the love story that ends in tragedy. After dating someone recently, Rachel has learned that it is not her job to protect others from the statistics.