Frank memoir by Bay Area twins who battled and ultimately won the war against cystic fibrosis.
Born six weeks prematurely in 1972, half-Japanese, half-German twins Isabel and Anabel Stenzel would never have easy lives. Ana required emergency surgery within 72 hours of birth, and both girls began displaying classic symptoms of cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic lung and digestive-system disease whose sufferers have an average life expectancy of only 30 years. Isa and Ana offer alternating perspectives on their childhood experiences battling the disease, and as they go along it becomes clear just how different the sisters are. The extended hospital stays to treat fungal infections were equally nightmarish for passive, even-tempered Isa and the more extroverted Ana, but eventually both settled into a routine of medical treatments and weeks of intensive hospital care. After years of stable health, a summer spent in Japan, good times at CF camp and studies at Stanford University (all the while watching their friends die from the disease), the sisters began writing journals while fretting over their parents’ increasingly discordant marriage. Their healthy brother Ryuta, one year older, was baffled by his sisters’ constant treatments and resentful that they diverted parental attention from him, but years later, he developed a warm, caring relationship with the twins. As adults, Isa married college sweetheart Andrew while her twin’s health faltered dangerously. After a three-year wait, Ana’s double-lung transplant transformed her life; Isa benefited from the same procedure years later. Both twins describe the often jarring medical troubles they have endured—everything from bleeding lungs to nebulizers to excruciating bowel obstructions—with the same raw honesty they use to express the tender emotions of their interdependence and vital bonding with their family.
A touching and candid portrayal of a devastating disease.