Health

'Twin-healing': Sisters battle breast cancer together

Nov. 19, 2013 at 11:41 AM ET

Video: Identical twin sisters Kristen Maurer and Kelly McCarthy have been declared cancer-free after both being diagnosed with breast cancer. The sisters say that their recovery was based on a process they named themselves: “twin-healing.”

A struggle against breast cancer has brought identical twin sisters even closer. 

Kristen Maurer and Kelly McCarthy were both diagnosed with the disease a few months apart. Last week they became the 4th twins ever to undergo shared reconstructive breast surgery, with Maurer donating her belly tissue to help rebuild her sister's breast.

The 34-year-old young moms from Crown Point, Ind., who share blond bobs, easy smiles and speak almost in unison, are now sharing their recovery. They call it “twin-healing.”

McCarthy, a nurse, was diagnosed with a difficult-to-treat form of the disease in 2011 and had started chemotherapy treatment, just weeks after the birth of her son. But she worried about her sister and knew she had to persuade her twin to get tested, an act of sisterly love that saved her life.

How did she convince her twin to go?

“I was going to use the twin card and I said if she didn’t go get tested, I was going to call and make the appointment under her name for her,” McCarthy told TODAY anchor Savannah Guthrie Tuesday.

It worked. Maurer was diagnosed with aggressive early-stage cancer and needed a double mastectomy. Her sister also needed a second mastectomy and breast reconstruction. As part of the procedure doctors took skin and fat from Maurer’s lower abdomen and transplanted it to her sister, Kelly.

Transplanted tissue from an identical twin is “the ideal situation,” because they are genetic matches, Dr. David Song, chief of plastic & reconstructive surgery, UCMC, told TODAY.

“You don’t have to use antirejection medication because you have a part of you living with your identical twin," Song said. 

And now the sisters are truly a part of each other.

“The tissue that they transplant sits right over my heart,” McCarthy told TODAY, smiling at her sister.

Maurer’s final message to women was to be “proactive about their health.”

“If you’re feeling that something is not right with your body to take initiative, to have it looked at,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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