Rachelle was born with one green eye and one blue, which was strange enough. But it was nothing compared to what she soon discovered about herself as she grew up. Keep reading for her unusual story.
Like most babies who are welcomed into this world, Rachelle was born happy and healthy. But doctors soon noticed something strange: an unusual birthmark that split the baby's body into two shades.
As Rachelle explained the enigma, "I have a straight line down the center of my torso. On my left side only, my skin pigmentation is a different color than on my right side." Doctors decided to interpret it as a birthmark. But the confusion didn't stop there.
Rachelle was also blessed with another striking genetic anomaly. Her eyes were two different colors - one green and one blue! Doctors began to study the child's strange irises, while her family flocked around her in awe. They soon announced her condition as heterochromia.
Heterochromia is a medical term with a simple definition: it is a condition where someone has two different colored eyes, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Rachelle explained it a little further, saying, "My dad's eyes are blue. My mom's eyes are green." But where did it truly come from?
The cause was never properly identified, and Rachelle grew up into a young woman. But as she grew older, it was clear that she was different. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a series of disorders, including bipolar, OC, and deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Rachelle accepted these diagnoses over time. "It just happens to be that I have a lot of chemical imbalances in my brain," she stated bluntly." It makes me feel like a different person when I don't take my medication." Sadly, that would not be the end of her trials and tribulations.
The Sickness Begins
Very quickly after the discovery of her mental illness, her physical health began to decline too. Soon, Rachelle was grappling with a number of physical ailments, and her doctors struggled to identify the cause. "Every doctor I would go to, no one could figure it out," she said.
Rachelle was still in her early teens, but she put on a brave face while doctors scrambled to give her medical advice and assistance. Sadly very little helped her, and the symptoms of her mysterious illness continued. "Since 14, I have been chronically sick, and I almost lost my life several times," she said.
One of her worst troubles during these days was a chronic bowel obstruction. Eventually, doctors simply pinpointed a name for the previously unidentifiable condition: it was Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). But a name doesn’t mean a cure - and this did little to end her pain.
Rachelle’s family was told that the identified condition was FAP. This meant that the cells of her body could not grow and function as they should, a result of “variations in her APC chromosome,” as written by MedlinePlus. And as time went on, the likelihood of tumors developing in her colon was high.
Bad News All-Around
The truth was heartbreaking, and both the sensitive Rachelle and her family were devastated by the prognosis. They soon discovered that not only was colon growth likely, but they often turned malignant over time. To put it simply, things were not looking good.
And the more they read, the worse things looked. According to MedlinePlus, Rachelle’s internal organs may one day be afflicted with thousands of tiny cysts. And eventually, the colon may become malignant. With such a potentially bleak outlook, what did that mean for her future?
A Genetic Analysis
Though they certainly didn’t understand everything about her ‘new’ condition, Rachelle’s family was beginning to process what this meant for their daughter. The presence of familial adenomatous polyposis had now settled into their everyday life. And then, suddenly, doctors offered another bombshell.
Rachel’s APC chromosome, the one responsible for the FAP, was a unique variation. Typically, the APC regulated gene count in mitosis lowered chances of benign and cancerous growths in the body. So Rachelle was sent to a geneticist to see how her condition might develop.
Two DNA Profiles?
And finally, Rachelle was in a position to discover the full truth about her condition. All through her young life, she had only found the details her doctors shared more and more confusing. So now she began to push the geneticist for more, in hopes of finding out as much as she could.
The geneticist told Rachelle more than she expected - as it turned out, the young woman possessed two DNA profiles, both completely different. "I have two sets of DNA profiles throughout my body. Like, in random places," she said. It seemed like a relief until more news came in not long later.
Her Cancer Diagnosis
While she was happy to understand her condition more deeply, that feeling was blown out of the water almost immediately. Doctors and medical experts delivered a bombshell: things had only gotten worse. The young teenager had also been diagnosed with colon cancer.
As Rachelle put it, "At 14, I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that caused Colon Cancer." The diagnosis plunged her into an exhaustive struggle through her adolescent years. It seemed the struggle for her health would be never-ending. How were they going to address things?
Rachelle and her family knew they had to do everything they could to try and curb her sickness. And that was going to result in around 40 procedures and surgeries that were no doubt going to take their toll on her. She went through all of them, including both major and minor operations.
But she was soon delivered another blow. Rachelle had always wanted to be a mother when she was older, but she was told that may not be a possibility. Cancer could render her infertile, and she was going to need even more treatments to avoid that. "I really wanted to be a mom, and I wasn't ready to give that up," she shared.
Winning The Odds
So the brave young woman went ahead with various procedures to try and protect her reproductive potential. She was so set on her dreams of motherhood that she rejected the possibility of an ileostomy - an operation that was going to help her colon, but could affect her chances of a safe pregnancy.
And after all of the struggles, her wishes finally came true - in more than one way. Rachelle was declared cancer-free, and she soon became pregnant. Overjoyed, she delivered her daughter, Pheonix, into the world. But sadly, this was not the end of her medical troubles.
Still Pushing On
Just because her colon was now cancer-free, it did not mean it was healthy. Her familial adenomatous polyposis was still a part of her life. And she was still constantly having to check in with doctors to monitor her health, all to ensure that she did not develop cancer again.
Juggling the responsibilities of a young mother is hard enough without the seemingly constant tribulations of battling chronic illness. Doctors pushed her to accept an ileostomy, but she rejected it again. She wanted the chance to have another child and refused to budge on the issue.
Once again, her stubbornness bore fruit. And it came in the form of a son, her second child. But this time, Rachelle found herself bed-ridden throughout the pregnancy. The entire process was significantly harder on her than carrying Pheonix, and she was understandably terrified for her unborn child.
In the third trimester, Rachelle experienced significant bowel obstructions, making the pregnancy a painful one. "I was in the hospital, and my son and I were both in a lot of life-threatening situations," she said. So it seemed almost like a miracle that she gave birth safely. But that wasn't the only amazing thing.
New Answers Arise
When Rachelle and her doctors laid their eyes on the small boy named Chance, they were simply shocked. Because little Chance’s face was covered by a different pigmentation to his body: He had almost the exact same birthmark as his mother but in a different area.
This revelation only prompted Rachelle to learn more about her and her son's condition. After decades of medical struggles, the 32-year-old began consulting doctors again - this time about her unusual pigmentation. "I did come across a doctor, and he confirmed that I am a Chimera," she explained. But what did that call for?
An Early Twin
After visiting a number of experts, she found a specialized doctor who explained her condition further. Compared to most people, Rachelle had twice as much DNA. She essentially had two sets of DNA that led to Chimerism, a “very rare condition,” she said.
But that wasn't even close to everything Rachelle learned. "Chimerism is where two fraternal twin eggs fuse together in the womb," she explained. "I absorbed my twin sister. So I carry her DNA and cells within my body." If that wasn't strange enough? "Basically, it means I am my own twin."
A Tragic Sacrifice
As it turned out, her condition was really the after-effects of a tremendous sacrifice her twin had made early in the womb. "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. It was an incredibly meaningful discovery.
"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 gushed. "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." Now she had to tell her parents the truth.
Her Parents Had No Idea
So Rachelle had finally pieced the puzzle together with the help of the medical community. Geneticists explained that her twin had passed away very early during their fetal development, and that was why she had been born with such diverse genetics. Rachelle had absorbed the remains of her twin.
These circumstances aren’t as uncommon as Rachelle and her family had thought. The reason it took so long for doctors to finally explain everything was because they did not have the key information - that she had had a twin: Her parents had never known. And the chimerism further complicated things, being incredibly rare.
Which DNA Is Which?
So yes, her genetic condition was deeply complicated, though some aspects were more common than others. But it left Rachelle with some unsettling questions. If she had two sets of DNA, which parts of her make-up were hers, and which parts were the twin? Take her heterochromia, for example.
Doctors soon solved that question. Her left blue eye was from her twin, which they knew because it had significantly less power. "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.
It Isn’t 50/50
When you look at Rachelle’s eyes and the split pigmentation of her body, it’s easy to think that she’s a 50/50 balance of herself and her twin. But this isn’t true at all. The majority of her genetic make-up is hers alone, even though she absorbed her twin.
Rachel explained it pretty succinctly. "It's not a 50/50 split between my twin and me, it's more like 80/20 or 75/25… It's not fifty-fifty. So if my brain is hers… but it's still mine cause I only have one." But even this huge revelation about her twin did not answer every question she had.
Where Did The Problem’s Start?
For example, it still did not fully explain the health issues she had had her entire life. Was it because of her chimerism? "I cannot say for certain whether or not my conditions are related," she confessed. "There are not enough chimeras in the world in order to do enough testing."
But Rachelle had her own opinions. "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]," she explained. "I feel like the genetic mutation, and the several autoimmune disorders I have are probably linked, but I can't say for certain."
What About Her Children?
The revelations and confusing questions only continued to roll in. As her children grew older and were treated by doctors, she was told that it was very possible - if not likely - that her son and daughter also carried the genes of their mother's twin. Was she their mother or their ant?
It was a somewhat disturbing thought to grapple with. And through some research, Rachelle learned about another woman who had experienced the same. A woman named Lydia had undergone the same questioning 20 years earlier when she took a genetic test that found her children did not share her DNA.
More Questions Arise...
This was how Lydia Fairchild had stumbled upon her own diagnosis of chimerism. Because of the genetic match between her children and her former twin, they did not share DNA with their mother. Of course, this did not affect the motherly link she had to her children. But it did raise further questions in Rachelle’s mind.
So she made one of her biggest life decisions yet - she underwent a procedure known as a hysterectomy, effectively removing her reproductive organs. This could be the piece that answered all of her lingering questions: whose genes did Phoenix and Chance have?
Mother Or Aunt?
The results rolled in. "I had to have a total hysterectomy because of the genetic mutations that I have," Rachelle said. "And when they examined both my uterus and my ovaries… they determined that both of my ovaries are 100% mine." But what about her children's DNA?
"In the uterus, there were some cells of my fraternal twin, but the majority of the uterus was my own," she assured. "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 Children Get a Check-up of Their Own
So she finally had her answer to the motherhood debate - she was indeed the mother of Phoenix and Chance, in every way. Now that she had her answers, it was time to move on to an even more pressing issue. She returned to doctors and geneticists, this time with her two children in tow.
Phoenix and Chance needed to be tested. The doctors had revealed that there was a chance of microchimerism in children, where they consumed maternal cells containing her genetic disorder as embryos, according to Healthline. It was time to find out if her children were going to struggle as she had.
The last thing Rachelle wanted was for her children to suffer through life as she had. It was imperative that she have her children tested for the chance of a genetic disorder. Soon, doctors and geneticists had developed full DNA profiles of both Pheonix and Chance. And they revealed a shocking truth.
Chance had a very similar condition. "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." This was further supported by the unusual red birthmark Chance had sported since he was a newborn.
More Tests Needed
Of course, the worried mother couldn’t leave it at that. She knew that she needed to find the extent of the condition to ensure that her little boy wouldn’t deal with the same medical issues that she had. The first thing she discovered was that, amazingly, his facial markings were not the result of microchimerism.
And though the birthmark was not considered harmful, it had developed into a growth on his lip, which disturbed her son. "Chance is having a lip reduction surgery. His Port White Stain enlarged his lip," Rachelle shared. After this was done, the family was optimistic that this was the end of their troubles.
Joining Social Media
Throughout all of the stress and constant testing that she and her children had experienced, Rachelle decided to take to Tiktok to share what had been going on. Rachelle and the father of her children had recently broken up, and the single mother used social media as a crutch for her struggles.
So she began sharing her life story with perfect strangers, including her medical background, her life as a mom, and even the end of her relationship. But it was her incredible genetics that really pulled in an audience, as she outlined the years of operations and treatments.
One day Rachelle took to the app to share something specific. She relayed the exact details of her genetic discovery and began to explain chimerism and her unique genetics. She even talked about the effect it had had on her life, and viewers flooded in.
So much so, in fact, that the clip became TikTok famous. Over 1.6 million people liked her story, and it was shared over 50,000 times. Hundreds of thousands of people were enthralled by her story, and Rachelle soon realized she had an opportunity to build on this newfound attention.
Support Rolls In
So she continued to share content on TikTok, about her medical journey and its effect on herself and her family - as well as other personal stories from her life. And the momentum continued. People all over the world were drawn in and became fans of the remarkable lady.
This was reflected in the growth of her channel. In just six months, Rachelle had gained a whopping 100,000 followers! "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." Soon enough, she climbed to 170,000!
Like so many other users, social media became an amazing opportunity for the single mother. She now had thousands of people who wanted to learn about her genetic condition - and her little family too. These days, Rachelle hopes to make a profit from it.
"This is like a dream come true," Rachelle shared. "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." If you want to help her dream come true, visit her TikTok page @radrachelle.