Doctors weren't too concerned with Rachelle's unique traits upon her birth. Sure, the newborn had one blue eye and one green, plus conflicting skin colorings. But it wasn't until later in life that Rachelle learned she was a medical marvel...
A One of A Kind Nevus
Rachelle came into the world just like the average baby. But upon delivery back in 1984, doctors noticed something truly and utterly remarkable about the newborn's appearance, an unmistakable birthmark.
"I have a straight line down the center of my torso," Rachelle outlined. "On my left side only, my skin pigmentation is a different color than on my right side. And they kind of chalked it up to, 'It must be a birthmark.'" But the doctors would soon discover more of the newborn's extraordinary attributes.
Her Heterochromia Diagnosis
Besides the contrasting skin colorings on either side of Rachelle's birthmark, she also had two contrasting iris colors! Upon birth, her eyes drew major attention from family, friends, and strangers alike. Doctors were particularly perplexed by the phenomenon, but had their speculations.
The medical experts decided on heterochromia. And by the American Academy of Ophthalmology's definition, it referred to a person having two distinctly colored eyes. "My dad's eyes are blue. My mom's eyes are green," Rachelle explained of her genes. Nevertheless, her condition's root remained a mystery.
She Struggled With Mental Health
As Rachelle grew to school-age, her loved ones began noticing that there were some additional traits of hers that were going unaddressed. Following several checks with experts in the field, Rachelle was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In addition to OCD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"It just happens to be that I have a lot of chemical imbalances in my brain," Rachelle explained. Suffering from bipolar made her "feel like a different person when [she] don't take [her] medication." But, Rachelle quickly learned that her life would continue to be an uphill battle.
Rachelle Fell Ill
Just as Rachelle began to handle the ups and downs of her mental diagnoses, other aspects of her health began to suffer. And medical experts scrambled to understand what was the root cause of all her ailments. "I started getting sick in my early teens," she reflected. "Every doctor I would go to, no one could figure it out."
Rachelle and her loved ones prayed that the health issues were temporary, but unfortunately, they persisted. The budding teen followed all the medical guidance she received from doctors. But, despite her efforts, it was out of her hands. "Since 14, I have been chronically sick, and I almost lost my life several times," she said.
Chronic bowel obstruction, in particular, plagued Rachelle in her early years. After a long and winding road of assessments and second opinions, there would soon be a moniker put to her suffering: Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). Unfortunately, the medical term didn't come with a cure.
As defined by MedlinePlus, Rachelle's familial adenomatous polyposis was due to variations in her APC chromosome. In effect, her cells' potential for regular growth and proper operation was impacted. The FAP diagnosis came with a high likelihood of benign growths in Rachelle's colon as she got older. Overall, bad news.
The Stats Didn't Look Good
Rachelle was understandably distraught upon learning of the typical fate that awaited those with her FAP condition. Because for many, the benign growth over time turned malignant. The teenager was sufficiently alarmed by the bleak future laid out in front of her.
MedlinePlus's statistics didn't paint a pretty picture. Apparently, the condition had the potential to riddle the young girl's organ with thousands of cysts. Over time, it could escalate and even turn malignant if the colon was left alone. With years of undiagnosed suffering already behind her, what laid in store for Rachelle?
A Closer Look at Her Genes
Her diagnosis brought more questions than answers. And as the medical jargon started soaking in, Rachelle began to accept her life with familial adenomatous polyposis. But, more shocking revelations came: Rachelle learned that a unique variation in her APC chromosome was behind her FAP.
In MedlinePlus' terms, the chromosome provided a compound that blocked benign and cancerous growths. In addition, it regulated gene count in mitosis. Doctors recommended a visit to a geneticist for Rachelle. They hoped an expert would point out the root problem and determine if the condition was affecting other organs.
Double the DNA
The diagnoses gave Rachelle the confirmation that she had looked for her whole life. But the more she learned of her unique conditions, the more confused the young woman became. Upon discovering that a chromosome was behind the illness, Rachelle sought more information from a geneticist.
And much to the specialist's surprise, Rachelle had two different DNA make-ups. "I have two sets of DNA profiles throughout my body. Like, in random places," she explained. The news certainly addressed the irises… But the distinctive pigmentation? Before she had the chance to ask, another diagnosis came her way.
Her Growths Turned Cancerous
Rachelle's uphill battle to understanding her condition didn't bring the relief she had hoped for. And to the dismay of her and her loved ones, the medical experts came with more bad news. The grim trajectory of her colon growths became a reality: Rachelle was suffering from colon cancer.
Rachelle recalled her challenging teenage years. "At 14, I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that caused Colon Cancer," she said. For the adolescent girl, the battle for her health was far from over. It was time for Rachelle and her medical team to tackle this latest diagnosis.
Was Her Fertility At Risk?
The young woman put everything she had into fighting this latest diagnosis. But the development from benign to malignant tumors resulted in a long line of procedures: Roughly 40 of them. But Rachelle kept her eyes on the prize as she went through the dozen-or-so big operations and 25-plus lesser ones.
However, a lifelong wish of Rachelle's was also at risk: Experiencing pregnancy. "I really wanted to be a mom, and I wasn't ready to give that up," she said. Unfortunately, the fight against the cancer threatened her fertility. Rachelle ultimately had to make some tough medical decisions in order to save her dream.
Experiencing the Miracle of Life
In order to protect her fertility, Rachelle opted out of some of the more aggressive routes of treatment, despite the fact that they could've helped with her various conditions. She declined an ileostomy, a procedure aimed to remove waste from the digestive tract, all while bypassing her compromised colon.
But, in the end, it was all worth it. Rachelle beat the debilitating disease and eventually experienced the joys of pregnancy. She gave birth to her daughter, Pheonix, and finally got a taste of the parent life. But unfortunately, her medical trials were far from over.
Old Problems Came Knocking on her Door
Despite being cancer-free, the state of Rachelle's intestine was far from healthy. She still lived day-to-day with the familial adenomatous polyposis, which involved regular visits to the doctor. Her condition required constant vigilance, to ensure the polyps were strictly benign.
Life with this condition became unbearable for the young mother. And avoiding the ileostomy procedure was harder to rationalize. But, determined to be pregnant once more, Rachelle opted for a different intervention instead. It was a risk, but there was no talking Rachelle out of it.
Round Two Was No Walk in the Park
Rachelle experienced the miracle of life again. Pheonix was only a toddler when the young mum welcomed her second child, this time, a son. However, baby number two proved to be sufficiently more challenging than Pheonix. Rachelle was bed-ridden for a good chunk of her pregnancy, consumed by worry for her unborn child.
"I was in the hospital and my son and I were both in a lot of life-threatening situations," Rachelle recalled. She suffered from bowel obstruction during the third trimester of her pregnancy. Luckily, her son was born without complications. However, attention quickly shifted to his remarkable birthmark…
The Answer She Was Looking For
Almost as if history was repeating itself, Rachelle's baby, named Chance, appeared to have a similar birthmark to that of his mother's. They both had two contrasting skin pigmentations: For Chance, it covered his face. The unique coincidence may have inclined Rachelle to keep digging for more info on her genetic make-up.
Now 32-years-old, with almost 20 years of sickness behind her, Rachelle learned the ultimate reason behind her two conflicting DNA make-ups. "I did come across a doctor, and he confirmed that I am a Chimera," the mother shared. Rachelle needed an explanation.
Rachelle Was Once a Twin
Rachelle's battle with FAP first led her to visit a specialized doctor. And it was then revealed that she contained double the amount of DNA compared to the average person. For years, Rachelle wondered what was behind the bizarre trait… Until finally, she learned the truth. "Chrimerism is a very rare condition," she shared.
"Chimerism is where two fraternal twin eggs fuse together in the womb. I absorbed my twin sister. So I carry her DNA and cells within my body." The young mother was floored with what the term really meant. "Basically, it means I am my own twin," she concluded.
"She Sacrificed Herself To Save Me"
Rachelle had the utmost appreciation for her former wombmate. In her eyes, she saw her genetic backstory as the ultimate sacrifice. "I think we conjoined together because my mom couldn't have twins, and either my mom would've perished or both of us would've perished," Rachelle explained.
"So I think that maybe even, you know, she sacrificed herself to save me. I know I'd sacrifice myself to save her or my mom," Rachelle elaborated. "I think that her soul went to heaven, and I think that parts of her body remained in mine, and now they're mine, and now they're part of me." But did her parents know of the twin?
Looking to Her Parents for Answers
As it turned out, Rachelle had once shared the womb with a twin. Her geneticist went on to describe her chimerism backstory: At one point during the pregnancy, Rachelle's non-identical twin passed away. As Rachelle developed, she took on her twin's fetal remains as her own, thus explaining her unique genetic profile.
So what took the medical experts so long to figure out Rachelle's condition? The 32-year-old looked to her parents for answers, but they too had no idea that Rachelle was once a twin. The uniqueness of her condition had clearly stumped specialists as well: There were a mere 100 instances of chimerism documented globally.
What Was Hers and What Was Her Twin's?
This wasn't your average WebMD diagnosis. While Rachelle got more answers from doctors, more questions came. Like, which DNA make-up was hers, and what traits belonged to her former wombmate? Rachelle wanted to know more about her unique iris colorings.
Rachelle learned that her twin's DNA dominated the blue-eyed left half of her profile. It also happened to be the one with hindered eyesight. "The reason that I know the DNA of the eyes is because the optometrist basically said that this eye (green eye) works twice as hard to overcompensate for this eye (blue eye)," she said.
The DNAs aren't Equal
Although her conflicting DNA strands had a symmetrical outward appearance, it was nowhere close to that balanced. Despite the bi-colored eyes and split skin pigmentation, she wasn't half twin-half Rachelle. The majority of her genetic build was her own, regardless of having consumed her wombmate's DNA as an embryo.
"The other thing is, it's not a 50/50 split between my twin and I," the mother of two explained. "It's more like 80/20 or 75/25... It's not fifty-fifty. So if my brain is hers... it's still mine cause I only have one." Though relieved to learn to truth, Rachelle needed more answers.
Did All Her Troubles Point Back to Chimera?
She wondered how big of a role her genetic mutation played in her health issues. Sure, it explained the birthmark and eyes, but what about her benign and malignant growths? "I cannot say for certain whether or not my conditions are related. There are not enough chimeras in the world in order to do enough testing," she explained.
"[But] I would say yes because the reason that I have colon cancer is because of a genetic mutation, and I don't understand how else I would have [it]," Rachelle elaborated. "People can have them, but I feel like the genetic mutation, and the several autoimmune disorders I have is probably linked, but I can't say for certain."
Were Her Children Her's or Her Twin's?
But the quest to understand the root of her medical troubles was just the tip of the iceberg for Rachelle. She found out that there was a likelihood of her kids possessing her twin's genes rather than her own. That would make Rachelle technically an aunt, not a mother.
Though Rachelle grappled with the unique possibility, she was not the only one. Roughly 20 years ago, a woman named Lydia Fairchild struggled with the same thing. She faced accusations of deceitful surrogacy upon genetic tests revealing that her children didn't match her DNA. What laid ahead for Rachelle, Pheonix, and Chance?
Time for More Answers
Lucky for Lydia Fairchild's case, geneticists discovered that she had chimerism. Her three children possessed her wombmate's DNA rather than her own, but she still had maternal claims to the kids. Rachelle couldn't help but ask herself if the same had happened to Chance and Pheonix...
Once baby Chance was born, Rachelle opted for a hysterectomy and took out out her reproductive organ. It presented the prime opportunity to solve the pressing genetic mystery: Which set of DNA did Rachelle pass on to her young kids? And would the truth change their family forever?
Whose Genes Did Chance and Pheonix Get
"I had to have a total hysterectomy because of the genetic mutations that I have," Rachelle outlined. "And when they examined both my uterus and my ovaries... they determined that both of my ovaries are 100% mine." That answered the question about her eggs, but what about the DNA from within Rachelle's uterus?
"In the uterus, there were some cells of my fraternal twin, but the majority of the uterus was my own," she outlined. "So, both my children have been tested. My son's going back for more testing... Both the children are mine; they came from my eggs, my DNA." The youngest remained a question mark...
Checked From Head to Toe
The outcome of the examination of Rachelle's reproductive organs came with a sigh of relief. And while the question of aunt versus mother was put to rest, Rachelle's kids continued visiting geneticists. Pheonix and Chance underwent detailed examinations.
Besides Rachelle's type of chimerism, another genetic condition was a possibility. Microchimerism entailed the embryo consuming maternal cells during the early phases of pregnancy, as claimed by Healthline. Was there a chance that either Pheonix or Chance had it? Rachelle took her kids to a specialist and did her due diligence.
Chance Had it too
Familiar with the struggles that came with her genetic condition, Rachelle wanted answers, and to protect her kids from as much suffering as possible. Pheonix and Chance underwent a slew of tests to determine their full DNA make-ups. And Rachelle learned that she wasn't the only one in her family with chimerism anymore.
"My son also has something very similar. I think it's called microchimerism if I'm not mistaken," Rachelle said. "He was born just like this, and they believe it was also related to chimerism." Akin to his mother, Chance sported two different skin pigmentations on his profile. Doctors had classified it as a birthmark...
Chance Needed a Deeper Examination
Rachelle's motherly instincts kicked in, and she took her son for more tests. She sought to rule out any worrying conditions that could lay behind Chance's unique red markings. But though her son possessed a form of Rachelle's unique condition, microchimerism wasn't to blame for his birthmark.
The facial mark was benign, but it brought discomfort to Chance, due to its impact on the growth of his lip. "Chance is having a lip reduction surgery. His Port White Stain enlarged his lip," Rachelle shared. The procedure came and went with ease, and the mom prayed it was a sign their medical troubles were behind them.
Starting a TikTok Account
Social media wasn't what it was back when Rachelle first experienced her medical trials. But by the time she had kids, the mom used TikTok to tell her and her family's story. And after an arduous split, Rachelle was parenting alone, and leaned on the app for comfort. Never could she have imagined where it would take her.
Rachelle utilized the platform to share her feelings surrounding the split and her new life as a single mom. But that wasn't all. She also shared her extraordinary genetic history, including her numerous procedures and intestinal troubles. One TikTok of hers, in particular, changed her life.
Then Came the Fame
Rachelle kept it very authentic with her followers. So, one day she concluded that it was time to disclose one of her most remarkable attributes: Her chimerism condition. She edited together a quick clip outlining her genetic variation and how it impacted her life. And video exploded in popularity.
Rachelle's clip spread like wildfire. Currently, at the time of publication, it has amassed 1.6 million likes and over 50,000 shares. Rachelle became a major point of focus for TikTokers and the mother wanted to build on her sudden newfound fame and attention.
The Numbers Kept Growing
But the mother's breakthrough video kept blowing up on TikTok, so Rachelle continued making more content. With each video, the fans came flocking. She touched on a wide variety of topics. And from popular trends to her honest heart-to-hearts, fans of the single mother couldn't get enough.
After less than half a year, Rachelle climbed to 100,000-plus supporters. And, come time of publication, she has gotten to over 170,000. "I'm the kind of person that gets like gene mutations and like chimerism," Rachelle shared. "I never thought this was gonna happen to me."
Eyes on the Prize
Rachelle's experience on TikTok turned over a new leaf for the mother of two. She grew a following of empathetic fans that yearned to learn more of Rachelle's unique family. And with other TikTokers turning a profit from their content, Rachelle soon had similar ambitions.
"This is like a dream come true," Rachelle shared. "And it really is something that I am so grateful for... Because with this platform, I might be able to get off disability, I might be able to be a brand influencer." Wanting to learn more about this unique mother's life? Check out her page for more: @radrachelle.