Twin Spin: Sisters With Leukemia Come to American Family Children's Hospital

In some ways, Kaitlin and Kylie Drechsel are just typical 3-year-old girls. They ride tricycles, draw with colored chalk, stop and watch "Doodlebops" on Playhouse Disney. And, like any pair of siblings, they can occasionally be a handful for their parents, Lynn and Jim of Greenville, Wisconsin.

What can make the Drechsels' handful overflow, however, is that both of their identical twin girls have cancer. Kaitlin was 2 when she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in October 2006, while Kylie was nearly 3 when she received the same diagnosis just nine months later. Life has since been a seemingly endless string of hospitalizations, doctor visits, chemotherapy infusions, spinal taps, prescriptions and two-hour drives to American Family Children's Hospital in Madison.

"You will be amazed what you can do for your child when this happens—even if it is to both twins," Lynn says. "You just change your routine and focus your energy on the child that happens to need it most."

Carol Diamond, MD, Kaitlin and Kylie's pediatric oncologist, cannot say enough about how thoroughly and graciously Lynn and Jim have managed the non-stop demands of a child—let alone two—with leukemia.

"When Kaitlin was diagnosed, the Drechsels immediately understood that Kylie would be at a higher risk of getting leukemia, since they shared a blood supply before birth," Diamond says. "As devastating as it was once Kylie was diagnosed, the Drechsels had the advantage of 'knowing the drill,' and that has made a difference."

While juggling all that goes with caring for two kids with cancer—not to mention running the family printing business—Lynn and Jim take things one day at a time. The prognosis is favorable for both girls, so mom and dad look forward to the end of their daughters' treatment in 2009.