Supporting My Twin Through Her Toughest BattleSeptember 21, 2016
Twins are natural confidants, competitors, and best friends. My journey with my sister Sharon started as all twins’ do — in the womb. Our heartbeats were so in sync that no one knew our mother would be delivering twins. As I was being born, Sharon’s hand was wrapped around my ankle, pulling me back in. Mom wanted another girl so badly — imagine her surprise when she found out she wouldn’t have to wait for one.
Growing up, we shared everything, and it was wonderful having someone experiencing life’s challenges by my side. When I struggled with fertility issues, she was there to offer encouragement. And when she bravely faced her battle with ovarian cancer, I became her support system.
At the time of her diagnosis, I was wrapping up a play in New York City. I received a phone call from Sharon. She was in Miami with my parents and said quite bluntly, “I think I have cancer — can you come home?” I immediately dropped the phone and told my director I had to leave.
A mix of emotions washed over me. The thought of Sharon battling cancer was terrifying, but I also felt strangely calm. I suddenly knew exactly where I needed to be — standing by her side to fight this together. We both felt lost at first. No one, not even the American Cancer Society, could help explain what was going on. It was Sharon’s fierce intelligence and determination to find out more that finally helped us better understand ovarian cancer.
I discovered my niche: finding creative ways to reflect light and positivity. Any time she opened her eyes and looked my way, I wanted her to see something alive, bright, loving, fun, and inspirational. I made it my mission to decorate her hospital rooms. When I was done with them, they didn’t even slightly resemble a cold, sterile room. From replicating a Jamaican beach to taping cutouts of her friends and family along her bed, I made sure the room was her escape from treatments.
Sharon’s journey was one of our greatest challenges as sisters, and the experience drew us closer than ever before. Through her treatments, we even found out we were identical twins! (We’d been told we were fraternal our whole lives.) If there was one good thing that came out of her treatments, it was that.
As twins, my sister and I were always comfortable talking about our bodies and anatomy with one another. But, as women, we need to be able to discuss these deeply intimate internal reproductive issues without feeling stigmatized. It’s important that Sharon and I share our experiences with her cancer diagnosis and treatment and my struggle with fertility issues.
We both have women calling us to ask about our journeys — together and separately. Sharon has helped so many because she can articulate what she went through, and she did so much research along the way. And because it’s out there in the world, women stumble upon her website and ask all kinds of questions, both emotional and medical.
Without Sharon’s incredible self-commitment — spearheading her own healing curriculum and openly spreading her experiences — there would be so many women unable to come forward and educate themselves on the disease. There is a strange, hushed position we take with women’s health; by spreading the word openly, she’s breaking it down, one post at a time.
Cancer sucks, and we can all agree on that. It’s our job to drive continued awareness. Sharon’s experience is something that brought us closer, giving us the tools to create a resource for others. Starting that conversation isn’t just special for us as sisters — it’s important for women everywhere.
Everyone Knows Someone who has been impacted by ovarian cancer. Now it’s time to raise our voices and bring more awareness to this disease. Share #WhoYouKnow that has been impacted by ovarian cancer with a tweet, picture, video on social media. Celebrate the survivors in your life and honor the memories of the women that have passed away during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.