Growing up as an identical twin was a special and unique experience. In 1973 (when we were born), it wasn't that common to be an identical twin. People stopped our parents all the time when they would see them pushing a double stroller.

Jeanette Joseph and Carolyn Wesley as little girlsWe grew up in a loving family as the oldest two of four kids. Our mom dressed us in the same clothes (different colors) when we were young. Looking back at our pictures, we often had to read the back to see my mom's notes on which one we were! It was even difficult for us to tell the difference sometimes!! We didn't have to go through any life transition alone (entering school, puberty, high school, college, etc.). We had a special bond from the beginning that has only gotten stronger, even though we always wanted to find our own identities and be known individually.

Sharing the same DNA with somebody else means that we got to experience doctors' appointments together (braces on and off the same day, wisdom teeth out the same day, etc.) throughout our childhood. We were always asked if one of us got hurt, would the other be able to feel it? This wasn't something we specifically experienced, but we have always been able to identify with each other if one of us wasn't feeling well.

In 2010, at the age of 37, within three weeks of each other, we were BOTH diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. Since that time, we have both gone through multiple surgeries and two rounds of radioactive iodine treatment. Neither of us is cancer free. We live with residual cancer and will always be monitored until/unless the tiny amounts left in our bodies become obvious and then we will need to undergo surgery to get rid of it. We have an incredible doctor at Froedtert Hospital, Dr. Gilbert Fareau, who we currently see annually to monitor us.

People are always shocked when they find out that we have the same cancer. The next thing they often say is that we are so lucky to be able to go through it with each other. We agree completely that having someone to talk to about the appointments, lab work, ultrasounds, treatment, surgeries and all other things related to our specific cancer is helpful. But if one of us is hurting or is scared, then the other feels it just as strong.

We always felt special that we could share life together in a unique way. We always felt special that we could understand each other like nobody else. We didn't need scars on our necks to look identical, we already did. We didn't need to get the same cancer to form a special bond. We already had one.


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Have you gone through cancer treatment while a sibling or close friend was also being treated for cancer? How did it affect your relationship? Share your comments below.

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About the Author

Jeanette Joseph grew up in Milwaukee within a very close family with her parents, Paul and Judy, an identical twin sister, Carolyn, her younger sister, Brenda, and younger brother, Gregory. Her father is Paul Joseph, who spent his career as our local expert meteorologist on TMJ-4 for 36 years. She was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in July 2010. After her diagnosis she had a thyroidectomy (surgery to remove her thyroid) and a round of RAI -- radioactive iodine treatment. In 2011, she went through another round of RAI treatment after it became clear that she had residual metastasized thyroid cancer in her body, but that treatment was not effective. In April 2015, she went through a left neck dissection surgery after it was identified which lymph nodes the residual cancer was "hiding" in. She is still healing from the surgery, but is hopeful that they got all of the cancer out of her body. Her identical twin sister, Carolyn Wesley was diagnosed with the same cancer within weeks of Jeanette?s diagnosis, so they've gone through this challenging journey together.

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Cindy
Stobb
on January 2, 2020 - 9:18 pm

Can I contact Jeanette?