Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!

As I look back on this journey (and near the end of this blog), I am struck at how healing solutions and people came into my life at just the right time. Call it fate, kismet, or karma … Yes, the universe had plans for me that I didn’t anticipate. But, it also wanted to arm me with some extra powers to fight the bad guys attacking my cells.

Remember Super Friends hour? (it ran for one year in 1977... I was about 9 years old). Wonder Twin Powers...Activate! Size of a... Shape of...

One of those forces of power was my identical twin sister, Kelli. After living in separate cities, and usually separate continents for the last 20+ years, Kelli and her family had recently moved back to the states. I came back from China last year to find her happily settled in my Sellwood Portland neighborhood, just about 10 blocks from our house. We gleefully reveled in the fact that our kids could now grow up together as close “twousins” (our pet name for our four kids who are cousins of twin moms, thereby sharing half their DNA). Little did I know how important she would become to me in the coming months…

Twousins unite! Emma on the left and Hadley on the right are mine. Dudes in the middle are Kelli's wonderful boys: Sam on the left and Taylor on the right.

When we first heard the news, Kelli and my older sis Erika, immediately closed in and encircled me with tender care, honesty and steadfast encouragement. Those of you with close sisters know what I’m talking about. It’s that effortless blend of pure love and unconditional support that is so special, especially in troubled times. From talking me through the dark days, to going shopping for new clothes that would make my bald puffy self feel better, to weeding my garden, to shaving my head for me, to holding my hand during chemotherapy, these treasured souls have been here for me like never before.

This is Kelli and me (and the jolly green giant ) when we lived in Hawaii in the early 70's. Very groovy. I'm on the right!

Everyone always asks me if we can “feel” each other’s pains since we’re identical twins. The answer to that is kind of. While we don’t necessarily twinge at the same time the other does or in the same place, there is an overall sense or feeling we’ll get if the other of us is out of whack somehow. As an example, when Kelli went into labor with her first son, this feeling came over me that something had happened. I called and sure enough she had just gone to the hospital. Kelli told me that my recent travels in Cancer-land reminded her of when we were in school together. If one of us had a test that day, the other one would worry endlessly and be filled with anxiety. It wasn’t much different for this life-time test, it’s just that the stress and empathy was amplified and the stakes were so much higher. Chemo definitely tops a pop algebra quiz!

Here we are as high school cheerleaders sporting short shorts (yikes!)

Kelli really stepped up to the plate early on when we met with the plastic surgeons to discuss reconstruction options. One possibility is to use tissue from your stomach or your back to make up the difference of what the mastectomy takes away.  Amazing stuff and a chance to get a tummy tuck too. Shockingly I was informed that I didn’t have enough extra inches of flesh for this to be an option. (are you sure, I asked the surgeon?!??). But right away Kelli piped in to offer to be a flesh-donor for me. Between the two of us surely we had enough for a new matched “set” for me.  The surgeon got a little look of intrigue in her eyes and let us know it had never been done before. This was our chance to make Oprah, we laughed! Later I discovered how much muscle tone and strength is compromised with this procedure and opted out for a simpler straight implant/expander surgery. Now we laugh that I’ll be the ever-perky 85 year old and everyone will be able to tell us apart when we’re old and grey in a way we never expected.

I had to "give" Kelli away a little bit the day she got married. I'll still always be her "better half." :-)

This is our acupuncture guru Gerri. She is amazing.

Easily, the best gift that Kelli bestowed upon me was to share her acupuncturist, Gerri. Kelli had referred me to her initially to help me fix a chronic knee problem with great success. I had unlocked the wonders of acupuncture with these sessions and once I learned of my diagnosis, I went immediately to Gerri, another one of my “angels”, for help.

She was on the case right away and the hour I spent with her every week in these past six months has been life saving. Every session was customized to how I was doing that day, that hour… Some days I would literally almost crawl into her office with the need to get “me” back again after being bombarded with chemo. Other times, it was general fatigue and battling neuropathy in my hands and feet. The treatments did a major job combating the side effects I experienced but I believe that they also had a big impact on the regression of the cancer. There is substantial research that shows the difference acupuncture can make and I hope that anyone going through this can experience the same relief. I know that I will always keep acupuncture in my life as another tool in my kit to keep balanced and healthy.

Kelli tells me that when we do yoga together now, she looks over at me in “happy baby” pose with my bald head and gets happy flash backs to when we were twin babies sharing a crib. In those days we spoke a special language that only we could understand.  Today, my twin sister and I stand side-by-side, ready to catch each other when needed. We are learning new languages together of hope, health and strength that I feel certain will help us get through what lies ahead.

Be it cancer, algebra or just a houseful of teenage kids…  life we are ready for you.

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  1. Kristi Jo
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I love the Hoyt Wonder twins!!! always have and always will. You forgot to mention the many times you were both a sleep in different rooms holding a conversation. :-)

    Can’t wait to see you both soon!


  2. Dalla Johannsdottir
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Dear Kerri,
    great news that you are cancer free! We are so happy for you all.
    I love the pictures of you and Kelli and the happy twousins. Family is so important during difficult times and you are lucky with the people around you.
    Hugi is planning to write an email to Hadley to tell her about our travels in Namibia in August.
    I´m looking forward to us planning your trip to Iceland soon,

  3. Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I am so, so happy for you because things are turning out well.

    Now, if you’re Jana, please don’t just turn into an eagle. Be an alien dragon that breathes laser fire or something. If you’re Zan, please don’t just turn into a bucket of water. Be an ice sword or a frozen crossbow that shoots icicles. If you do this, then I will be extra so happy for you.

  4. Cynthia
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, Kerri. A very happy and hearty congratulations on entering the Recovery Zone!

  5. Anna
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I loved reading this. Thank you for sharing your experiences Kerri. You have had a lot of love in your life and I know that these days you have even more. xo

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