Featured MassKicker

Raechal Leone Shewfelt

You're not alone! I recommend a support group for anyone going through cancer, as well as their caregivers and loved ones, because it really helps to know that others are also going through the same, intense experience.

Raechal Shewfelt knows how to kick some serious mAss!  We met Raechal at a brain tumor conference and were impressed by her attitude and resolve in her battle with her brain tumor!  Raechal currently works for Yahoo! reporting on pop culture and celebrities. She grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, then went on to attend Louisiana State University in Shreveport. She then got her Master’s of Journalism from the University of Maryland where she worked at American Journalism Review and the Education Writers Association. Shortly after, she moved to Los Angeles to work for a startup news website before moving on to Yahoo!  We were fortunate to catch up with her and ask her a few questions.

mK:  Thanks for doing this Raechal! What/ when was your diagnosis?

RS: I was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiform a few years ago. I had known there was something wrong for about six weeks before the doctors found the tumor. I was experiencing vertigo, headaches, extreme fatigue, squinting, balance issues, and I just felt off. I went to Kaiser Permanente’s quick care clinic several times before, on the fourth time, three days before I was supposed to visit my in-laws in Canada for Christmas, I was assigned to a headache specialist. She ordered an MRI that night and saved my life. Within 12 hours of the scan, I was told to check into the emergency room for surgery to biopsy whatever was in my brain. Dr. Joseph Chen at Kaiser Sunset in L.A. saved my life again by removing as much of the tumor as he could about two weeks later.

mK: Wow!  What were your symptoms?

RS: The main thing was vertigo, something I’d never experienced before. I was also just really exhausted and off balance. And I remember the last few days before they found the tumor, I couldn’t really use my hands. I had terrible handwriting and had trouble using a fork. My car was parked sideways.

mK: Who is your hero or are your heroes?

RS: Eleanor Roosevelt. Nora Ephron. Susan Jeffers. Katharine Graham. Anna Quindlen. I think that all of these women were/are brave in their actions and their words.

mK: What motivates you?

RS: Before I was diagnosed, I was really focused on career. Now, I think more about being a good person — a good wife, a good sister, a good friend. There’s more of a sense of urgency around everything I do. I never know when I could get sick again. When I’m feeling sad, a lot of times I’ll think about my youngest nephew, who just turned 3, and how much I want to see his graduation, or I’ll think about all the trips I still want to take with my husband and that motivates me.

mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?

RS: Cancer definitely changed me, but in some ways, it changed me for the better. I don’t think I’ll ever again feel like that person I was before diagnosis, but that’s okay. I get to be this new person living a different life now.

mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?

RS: My husband and “Portlandia” make me laugh. Cancer made me more emotional, so practically every sweet commercial makes me cry. What makes me mad hasn’t changed, and that’s people not being treated fairly.

mK: Yeah, my “allergies” mysteriously act up when I hear any story that tugs at your heart strings!  What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?

RS: In college, I interned in Washington, D.C., where I lived with 11 other girls in one run down row house on Capitol Hill. We have some stories! I’m still good friends with some of those women today.

mK: Yikes!  That sounds like a TV series… Anyways, what was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?

RS: After my diagnosis, I found myself becoming painfully shy. I was really uncomfortable with people knowing that something was “wrong” with me. Talking through that with people in the Brain Tumor Support Group at the Cancer Support Community — Benjamin Center in Santa Monica and joining a local Toastmasters group helped me push through that.

mK: What is your guilty pleasure?

RS: Romantic comedies. Dark chocolate. “The Bachelorette.” Mix radio stations. I also really enjoy museum gift shops, sometimes even more than the museum…

mK: Hee hee… If you could go back in time an give the high school version of yourself some wise advice, what would you tell yourself?

RS: Don’t worry so much!

mK: What do you like to do in your spare time?

RS: I live close to the beach, so my husband and I walk down there often. I’m a big reader, especially of nonfiction, and I really enjoy documentaries.

mK: What are you up to now?

RS: I’m a full-time writer, but I just took a vacation so we could drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to spend two nights in Monterey and two nights in San Francisco. It was so beautiful! I’m from Louisiana, so I had never seen some of the picturesque beaches and mountains.

mK: Very cool!  Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?

RS: At the moment when you’re getting the diagnosis, you’ll think you won’t ever get past it. But you can and you will.

mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.

RS: I got married at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, where we had the option of saying our vows in a pink Cadillac and being serenaded by an Elvis impersonator. We declined.

mK: HAHAHA!  You guys should have went all out and got married by “Fat Elvis”!  Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?

RS: You’re not alone! I recommend a support group for anyone going through cancer, as well as their caregivers and loved ones, because it really helps to know that others are also going through the same, intense experience.

Raechal Leone Shewfelt:  Vegas “Eloper”, road tripper, “long-walks-on-the-beach pedestrian”, souvenir junkie, Washington DC TV sitcom muse, accomplished writer, and pro-active brain tumor thriver!   Thanks for answering our strange questions!  We’ll definitely keep an eye out for what you do next!

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