Name: Rachel Bernardi
Occupation: Supervisor at Starbucks
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 25
Breast cancer type: ER/PR+ HER2-
Breast cancer stage: Stage 4, Metastatic
Treatment: First-line: Tamoxifen, Zoladex, Xgeva and an oophorectomy Second-line: Palbociclib, Letrozole, Xgeva. Gamma knife for brain metastasis.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer.
I like boxing – I think everyone should try it. It is so much fun and cathartic to hit things. I’m also a total nerd, but not when it comes to comics or video games. I love rocks and minerals, particularly why and how they form, what they are made of, and why some are more common than others.
Also, I am a Slytherin…and an aspiring Death Eater.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
This changes all the time but two that will work without fail are Alive by Phil Lober or In Da Club by 50 cent.
How did you discover your breast cancer?
My then fiancé, now husband, found a lump in my left breast when we were fooling around…talk about killing the mood.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
At first nothing – I was in complete shock. I remember thinking while we were waiting for the pathology and the staging test results, “Please don’t be stage 4. I can handle stage 3, not stage 4″… the universe laughed. The other big thought I had was, “How the F*** am I going to tell my family.”
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with MBC?
So, I actually had to get my husband to jog my memory on this one. This is because many people have said things to me, positive and negative, over the last 3.5 years.
I think my top two contenders are being told:
- I’m obviously faking cancer for attention because I don’t look sick; and
- I could not possibly have stage 4 cancer because I’m too young, so I must be lying.
What has been your biggest source of support throughout your experience with MBC?
My cats obviously…. those kitty cuddles make everything better. My husband, mom and siblings were, and still are the biggest sources of support. I have some great friends that have been very helpful too. I also think that my oncology care team is amazing. They have gone above and beyond with the care I have received and helping me find resources and support outside the hospital.
What has been the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
Coming face to face with one’s mortality, the grieving for a life that will no longer be a reality, and the complete and utter chaos/lack of control that comes with living with this disease.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having MBC?
I can make any situation funny. For instance, I was told that I’d probably have to go for a double mastectomy before we knew what stage we were dealing with. The first thing I thought of was the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland screaming “off with their heads.” The first thing out of my mouth was “off with her tits!” followed up with “If I had known all I needed to get a free boob job was to get cancer and not a sugar Daddy, I would have done this along time ago.”
In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman whohas just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Take care of yourself first. The people around you can take care of themselves, it is not your job. (I know that was two sentences not one…. oops)
If you or someone you know is a young woman with breast cancer looking for a community that relates and connects with your struggle, the Rethink Young Women’s Network might be right for you. For more information, click here.