Madeline and Isabella Dunn do everything together. The identical twins faced birth – and even near death together. At only two months old, the 8–pound infants were diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, neuroblastoma, just two days apart. They became the 9th known case of monozygotic twins with neuroblastoma.
Double Dose of Cancer
Madeline’s engorged, hard abdomen was the first indication something was wrong. Within days of her first pediatrician appointment, Maddie was in neonatal intensive care at Children’s Hospital of Michigan fighting for her life and undergoing her first round of chemotherapy. Her parents, Michael and Alissa, would soon learn that Maddie’s cancer, which started with a tumor in her belly, had spread to her liver and bone marrow, and to her sister via the placenta.
“We were in full–blown shock,” Michael said. “It all happened so fast. There was a parade of doctors, each with their own specialty. Our days became doctor after doctor.” Added to the parents’ concern was the welfare of their two–year–old son, who also needed their attention.
A Lifeline to the Outside World
The day Isabella was diagnosed, another family at the hospital introduced the Dunns to CaringBridge. Michael was skeptical they’d ever use the site. Ultimately, he said, it became a lifeline between the family at the hospital and the outside world.
“It allowed us to tell the story we could never have told to people personally,” Michael said. “It would have been a much more difficult and lonely time without CaringBridge.”
Michael and Alissa stayed positive around the girls, finding strength in their faith and the CaringBridge guestbook. Their emotional highs and lows, the girls’ treatment and daily challenges were captured on CaringBridge, effectually becoming the twins’ baby book.
Looking back, of course the Dunns prefer that the twins had never gotten cancer in the first place but they’re thankful the girls got the disease together.
“It was bonding time between sisters that they never would have had if they had not both had cancer,” Alissa said. “They pulled strength from each other.”
The twins were separated for the first few weeks while in intensive care. Once they were stable, the parents held the girls next to each other and watched their faces light up and the girls kick each others’ feet. From then on, they were always together, sharing a crib at the hospital.
Four months after diagnosis, both Madeline and Isabella had no evidence of the disease. Today, the lively toddlers show no lasting effects from their cancer or treatment, and they are as inseparable as ever.
“They are our miracle babies,” Alissa said.