NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) — Identical twin sisters from the Garden State have 42 years of shared experiences to reminisce about, but none like the most recent — identical breast cancer diagnoses.
Courtney Werner and Meagan McCallum both love exercise, love the great outdoors and then there’s this:
“Oh my God, I woke up and felt the need to call you,” said Courtney, who is two minutes older than her sister.
While Meagan was pregnant with her first child, Courtney recalls waking up at 5 a.m.
“Her water had broken at 5 in the morning,” Megan told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock on Wednesday.
The connection and the love between the identical twins is palpable, even through the screen and it carried them both through breast cancer this year.
“It was hard to accept at first,” said Meagan, who was diagnosed first.
In January, Meagan had a mammogram that came back negative, but an ultrasound detected a lump.
“I was really shocked when I got the news that it was a positive diagnosis,” Meagan said.
There’s no family history, she’s health conscious and never misses a doctor’s appointment. When Courtney learned of the diagnosis, she said, “I couldn’t believe it. I just cried my eyes out.”
It also motivated Courtney to schedule her mammo and do a self-exam. That’s when she felt something.
“I thought it was probably just a lymph node, a sympathy lump. I’m just trying to find something, so we’re the same,” Courtney said.
In March, Courtney went for her mammogram and it was negative, but an ultrasound again spotted trouble: cancer identical to her sister’s.
“Same side, same spot, I just couldn’t believe it,” Courtney said.
The twins tackled the same treatment — lumpectomy, hormone therapy and radiation — with extreme optimism, which propelled them through it all, said their surgeon, Dr. Yolonda Tammaro of Hackensack Meridian Health.
“They’re spirit was just amazing, strong throughout the entire process,” Tammaro said.
Tammaro said a 2016 study looked at more than 200,000 twins over a 30-year period and found about one-third developed cancer. When they looked specifically at cancer, ” … if one identical twin developed cancer, there was a 28% chance that the co-twin would go on to develop breast cancer as well,” Tammaro said.
“Did you ever turn to each other and say could you please not have shared this with me?” Murdock asked.
“Actually, I kind of thanked Courtney for going through this with me and I was happy to do it,” Meagan said.
They are stronger, happier and healthier together.
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