Beyond the Diagnosis

Rachel Shvetz
November 2, 2023

In October 2022, at the young age of 30, Rachel found herself facing a life-altering diagnosis. While most people her age were enjoying reaching the toddler phase of parenting, she was plunged into a world of uncertainty, fear, and guilt. Her husband, a dedicated United States Navy member, was about to embark on an extended sea duty, leaving her to navigate the turbulence of a cancer diagnosis with two young children by her side.

"I was terrified, devastated, and I felt a lot of guilt at what my kids were going to have to go through because of my diagnosis. Regardless of the fact that it isn’t my 'fault,' I still felt guilt over what they were missing, and going to have to see," she reflects.

Over the past year, she's endured a relentless regimen of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, radiation therapy, and oral chemo. Each treatment brought its own set of complications and side effects, pushing her both physically and mentally. The relentless fatigue and energy drain made parenting her young children all the more challenging, but her determination to be there for them never wavered.

"I don’t want my kids to miss out on things that they should be doing, but I know how important listening to my body and giving it the rest it needs is," she says. "The balancing act I’ve had to learn to play is hard and gets frustrating at times, but this is their childhood, so I make it work."

A Voice for Change and Awareness

As someone with a family history of breast cancer, Rachel wasted no time seeking medical attention. However, her experience shed light on a troubling misconception: the unreliability of mammograms and ultrasounds for women with dense breast tissue like hers. Her story underscores the importance of advocating for oneself in the medical realm, as she was eventually diagnosed with bilateral triple-negative breast cancer despite initially normal imaging.

She also challenges the misconception that "if it hurts, it’s not cancer." For her, the cancer aggravated her breast tissue, causing discomfort and pain. This experience has motivated her to share her story and educate others, reminding everyone that cancer does not discriminate by age.

A Support System That Shines Bright

Throughout her journey, Rachel has been surrounded by an incredible support system. Her husband and both mothers, though they lived miles away, rallied to help care for her children. Friends dropped everything to assist when needed, and the local community showered them with meals during chemotherapy.

Her husband's Naval Special Warfare Command and organizations like the Navy Seal Foundation extended their generosity, providing essential services like childcare and house cleaning. The Got Your Back Pax organization, started by her late aunt Sharon, provided her with a backpack full of helpful items for her first chemotherapy session, leaving an indelible mark on her heart.

Facing the Storm with Grace

Living with cancer, she learned that life doesn't stop. Despite the hardships of treatment, she continued to perform daily tasks, care for her children, and live a life that was, at times, seemingly normal.

Her advice to fellow chemotherapy warriors is to embrace the support that surrounds them.

 "Let yourself feel whatever you feel, and listen to your mind, body, and heart. You won’t have it all together and figured out, and that’s okay. This is just a season, and yes, you’re going to have to fight like a warrior through it, but there is goodness on the other side."

A Glimpse into the Future

Looking ahead, Rachel has embraced a newfound perspective on life. She doesn't take time or mundane things for granted and finds gratitude in life's simple blessings. Her relationship with faith has deepened, and she relies on a higher power, knowing that there is a plan beyond her own.

With a heart full of hope, she envisions a future where awareness, especially among young women, empowers them to prioritize their health. By sharing her story, she's inspired countless women to take charge of their well-being.

As Rachel continues her journey, she leaves us with these words of wisdom: 

"Remember God is in control here, our circumstances are no surprise to Him. There will be hard days, and there will be days you feel like you cannot move another inch, but the finish line will come, and you will have good, easy, and boring days again. This will be the fight of your life, but the reward will be worth it."

Her story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, a beacon of hope for those facing adversity, and a reminder that champions rise even in the darkest hours.


Rachel Shvetz

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Create a List

List the names of all the doctors, hospitals, and other facilities your loved one visits regularly, along with those they have visited in the past. Try to go back as far as you can, striving for at least the last 5-10 years, but do your best. Even if you can’t remember them all, having a strong baseline can help you quickly identify gaps in records.

Ensure You Have the Appropriate Legal Status

It is important to make sure that you are fully empowered to make decisions on behalf of your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Your relationship status with the patient may not be enough to legally give you access to your loved one's medical information. It is a good idea to talk to an expert about securing special legal status, such as Power of Attorney (POA), a legal document that allows an individual to name someone as their decision maker should they no longer be able to make decisions on their own.

Gather and Organize the Medical Records in One Place

It’s important to have all of your loved one’s medical records together in one spot. This makes it much easier for you and your loved one’s physicians to accurately map the patient’s medical journey and more easily share information between doctors. Fortunately, tools exist to make record management and access simple. A free resource like PicnicHealth helps you collect and organize all of this information. PicnicHealth’s intuitive timeline allows you to pinpoint data across the medical history, eliminating your need for keeping heavy binders filled with paper records or keeping track of multiple software portal logins.

Review the Medical Records to be an Informed Advocate

The better you understand your loved one's medical history, the better you can advocate on their behalf. Access and understanding of this information will help you to ask informed questions with physicians. Through regular communication backed by the data in the medical records, you can help your loved one’s care team develop a more successful care plan.

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Together, we can make a difference.

Learn more about PicnicHealth’s commitment to the Alzheimer’s community and the Alzheimer’s Association

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Build a support network.

When you’re juggling appointment times and insurance claims, putting a robust support system together might not strike you as the most urgent task. Investing the time to cultivate relationships with people can turn to in times of need will pay dividends. The next time you need a last-minute ride or just someone to listen, you won’t be on your own.

There are many condition-specific support groups and support groups for caregivers generally in person or online. In addition to the encouragement and empathy they provide, support groups can be a helpful source of tips, resources, and recommendations for navigating caregiving.


Stay organized.

The backbone of effective caregiving is organization. Keep medical information, appointment schedules, and medication lists in order. Use a planner or a digital service like PicnicHealth to stay on top of your responsibilities. This attention to detail can prevent future complications and reduce day-to-day stress.


Explore treatments and clinical trials.

We’ve seen incredible breakthroughs in treatment over the past couple of years, powered by patients and their caregivers participating in research. Stay in the loop about the latest in medical advancements and available resources that could benefit your loved one. Whether it’s a new therapy option or a community service that aids independence, being informed can make a world of difference in the quality of care you provide.


Make time for self-care.

It may seem self-centered to focus on self-care—but when you feel good, you can be a better caregiver. Whether it’s exercise, a mindfulness practice, a soak in the bath, or just time to rest when you need it, carve out those moments in the day when you can unwind, reset, and stay healthy mentally and physically. Think of it as building up your reserves of kindness, patience, and understanding—which can only benefit your loved one. No one can pour from an empty cup.

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LC-FAOD Odyssey: A Preliminary Analysis, presented at INFORM 2021

Data from real-world medical records:

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

16 yrs old

Median age at enrollment

38% Female

15 providers / patient

7.5 years of data / patient

Data from patient-reported outcome (PRO) survey

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

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