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Baby Twin Sisters Healed from Rare Cancer

Brandice Hudson - 700 Club Producer

On July 4th 2007, at 4:00 a.m. Alissa and Michael Dunn welcomed twin girls, Madeline and Isabella into their family.

“They were 5 pounds, 12 ounces and 5 pounds, 8 ounces, so they were perfect sized little girls. And they surprised us and came on the fourth of July so we call them our firecracker babies,” said Alissa Dunn. 

During a routine check up the following September, their pediatrician noticed Madeline’s stomach was swollen. “You could sense the tone change after he really started to physically examine her and you could see his face change and I think we both knew this wasn’t going to be a normal checkup,” said Michael Dunn. 

An ultrasound gave him reason to suspect she had cancer. He sent them sent them to a local hospital for further testing. “On the drive to the hospital we feared for the worst but we hoped and prayed for the best. We hoped that it would be routine, but deep down inside we worried it could be the worst,” said Michael. 

“When we first got there they said that there’s no way it is cancer. She was too young… The doctor came in shaking and said, ‘it is,’” said Alissa. 

Madeline had stage 4S Neuroblastoma - a rare form of malignant cancer found in infants and young children. A softball-sized tumor was growing on her abdomen. 

Alissa and Michael took her to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit Medical Center where they met Dr. Jeffrey Taub. As he ran tests on Madeline, her twin Isabella caught his attention. “My colleague and I had a feeling that something was not right. We asked if we could look at Isabella’s abdomen. She went for an ultrasound immediately and found that she had what looked like the exact same tumor that Madeline had,” said Dr. Taub.

Dr. Taub said surgery could lead to major complications, so the best form of treatment would be chemotherapy, although that came with its own risks. The toxicity could lead to scaring, developmental delays, or worse - death.  

Identical twins, developing the same form of cancer, at the same time is extremely rare and the chance that both girls would survive was uncertain.        

“Their MRI showed that their livers were massively enlarged, extremely abnormal, and that their livers were completely filled with tumor cells. Not just one little part, where you can cut out one little part of the liver and take out the tumor. It just was throughout their whole livers,” said Dr. Taub. 

The infants were separated to begin the first of four treatments. Meanwhile the Dunns, family and friends, prayed for a miracle. “Things started looking grim pretty quickly. They got sick really quick and they were in so much pain. You couldn’t touch their skin. It looked like it would crack,” said Alissa. 

“Some days were very hard. We would get a lot of negative news. When you’re walking through that valley, you really don’t know how things are going to turn out. All you can do is trust in the Lord and just put your faith in Him,” said Michael. 

They saw a spark of hope when the girls were reunited for the second round of therapy. 

“They let us put them together for the first time and they recognized each other.  It was huge. They started kicking and smiling and they hadn’t done that in a month,” said Alissa. 

“And I think it was a turning point. It really gave us hope to think that maybe we can get through this. Maybe the Lord will choose to heal them,” said Michael. 

By October, the girls were well enough to go home and finish their treatments. Afterwards they went for an MRI to determine if the therapy had worked. Two weeks before Christmas, they got the results.

“It was the 14th of December, and the Christmas tree was lit. We had our parents over and we were celebrating the season. We got that phone call that there was no evidence of disease. I remember hanging up the phone and just feeling like, “Really? WOW!” said Alissa. 

“We made it. Our girls were healed. The Lord chose to heal them,” said Michael. 

This year the girls will be celebrating another birthday, cancer free. 

“It is a pretty big celebration and we tell them dad gives them fireworks for their birthday every year to celebrate their sparkle in our life,” said Alissa.

“Every year is a celebration for us and we realize it was a miracle,” said Michael. 

“I think in a situation like this, which potentially could have been a tragedy; not only having one child with cancer, but two children at the same time developing cancer, the fact that they both recovered and are cancer free is a true miracle and it’s just really gratifying to see things like this happen,” said Dr. Taub. 

“The twins’ healing was definitely a gift from God. He blessed them and chose them to be healed through the hands of the doctors and the nurses. There’s no other way it can be explained. They were given a small chance for survival and for them to come through and be as well as they are today it was a miracle.  There’s no doubt in my mind, it was a miracle,” said Michael.

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