MIRAMAR, Fla. – Twins Cheryl Mason and Chimene Garrison are not only similar in appearance, but they've also shared many of the same life experiences, including breast cancer.
"I was diagnosed first but Chimene started the journey with colon cancer," said Mason.
Garrison's colon cancer was actually related to her later diagnosis of breast cancer. Both sisters are HER-2 Positive and their cancers were influenced by a newly discovered gene mutation.
"My research nurse said, 'That's weird that you and your twin had cancer.' Then she said, 'Oh there's a new gene, the ATM gene,'" Mason said.
The twins were actually diagnosed six years apart; Mason in 2012 then Garrison in 2018.
Dr. Aeisha Rivers, a breast surgical oncologist with the Memorial Breast Cancer Center said the twins' experience is unusual.
"To be honest with you, most of our patients don't have a family history so to have someone who's not only your sister but your twin sister go through a very similar experience a couple of years after is very unique," Rivers said.
Rivers said advances in breast cancer research are helping women like Mason and Garrison survive and thrive through treatment.
"I think one of the myths a lot of patients are thinking is, 'Hey, this is the first time they're doing this and I don't want to be the guinea pig,' but before we offer a research trial to a patient there are tons of layers, years and years of research behind the scenes that you don't see that tells us, 'Yes, it's safe to take it to the next step; it's safe to use in the treatment setting,'" Rivers said.
Mason was actually part of a clinical trial during her cancer treatment, which ultimately led to the approval of a treatment option that benefited Garrison during her battle with breast cancer years later.
"One of the things I'm proud of, for both of us, is that we have shown our children in this that it doesn't matter what you go through if you are willing to fight, to lean on your faith and your family, you will get through it," Garrison said.
For more information go to, https://www.mhs.net/services/cancer/types/breast.