These twins share almost everything — except a common gene mutation.
The first thing you notice when you see twin sisters Carrie and Erica together are their smiles.
They’re big and welcoming, crinkling the corners of their eyes in exactly the same way.
Yet there's one big difference between Carrie and Erica. Carrie has the BRCA gene mutation. Erica doesn’t.
If you don’t know — don't feel bad because lots of people don't — a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene is one of the most common indicators that a person will get breast or ovarian cancer in their lifetime.
Watch Carrie and Erica's inspiring story below:
Her twin sister wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the preventive steps she took.Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, June 29, 2017
"We have had a substantial family history of breast and ovarian cancers," Carrie says. And when the sisters found out that their mom had the BRCA gene, they both decided to get tested for it too.
"I was positive and she was negative," says Carrie.
For Erica, relief at her diagnosis was short-lived. "I was also sad and nervous and upset that the two women closest to me, my mom and my sister, both had it."
Rather than worry, Carrie immediately went to work.
Together with her care providers, she arranged for mammograms and MRIs to test for breast cancer every six months, along with blood tests for ovarian cancer.
For a while, all the tests came back fine. Then, one routine MRI revealed some abnormal cells. Carrie had a biopsy to be sure, but the results were conclusive: cancer cells.
Like hundreds of thousands of other women, Carrie began cancer treatment — and she did it with her sister at her side.
"I started chemotherapy," she says. "Lost my hair, lost my appetite, lost a good sense of myself. But, you can come out the other side."
Erica and Carrie. Image via Cigna.
"Without preventive care, I probably would not be here today," she says, her voice breaking. "That's the truth."
Along with knowing her genetics, early detection helped save Carrie’s life. Now she’s not taking anything for granted.
"This could happen to anybody, no matter what age you are," she says. "I would highly suggest people go in to have regular doctor visits and to know your numbers so that you can take control of your health and your life."
Keeping an eye on your health numbers — blood pressure, blood sugar, BMI and cholesterol — can help you spot potential health problems early.
Erica agrees. "Going to the doctor is not the most comfortable thing and mammograms are not that comfortable, but I think Carrie has shown people what’s good about going to the doctor and finding out early."
As Carrie thinks about her future, she’s excited about what it holds. "I'm looking forward to having a family one day, traveling the world, and being more of a participant in this crazy, awesome life."