Model with rare birthmark discovers it is the result of 'absorbing' her twin in the womb
People have been long fascinated by twins. Sharing your life with a sibling in such an intimate manner - since conception - certainly is special, and pop culture never fails to document such relationships as being wholly symbiotic. Whether they're finishing each other's sentences, or just have an innate sense of what their counterpart is feeling, one thing is for sure: a very unique bond develops between twins.
One woman, however, wasn't even aware that she had a twin until she had a birthmark investigated. And unfortunately, her tale didn't end happily - not least for her twin.
American model and singer, Taylor Muhl, always had a distinctive birthmark - in the form of differing skin pigmentation divided by a line that runs down her torso. However, it wasn't until she had it formally investigated by a doctor that she discovered she was one of around only 100 people to have a rare condition called chimerism, which means that she has two sets of DNA.
Chimerism occurs when an unborn child absorbs the cells of their miscarried sibling in the womb, and the surviving child inherits some of the genes of their "ghost" twin. While the condition often goes unnoticed, Muhl picked up on some differences between the two sides of her body. "Everything on the left side of my body is slightly larger than the right side," she explained on her blog. "I have a double tooth in the left side of my mouth and many sensitivities and allergies to foods, medications, supplements, jewellery and insect bites."
It was only when the model consulted with a doctor who specialises in rare medical conditions that she discovered she had chimerism - meaning she has two different immune systems and bloodstreams, as well as the prominent birthmark on her torso.
"My first reaction was shock," Muhl told People magazine. "Then my second reaction was sadness because I was like, 'Oh my gosh! I could’ve gone through life with a twin, with a sibling that hopefully I could’ve been close to.' There was some sadness."
While the model had spent years fighting autoimmune diseases, it was only after her diagnosis that medical professionals realised her chimerism was responsible for the outbreaks. Now, she's aware that her body recognises her deceased twin's cells as foreign so is constantly battling them. However, her diagnosis has given her some peace in this regard.
"I actually felt relief,” Muhl asserted. "I felt freedom because for the first time in my life I knew why my stomach looks the way it does. This is why I’ve had so many health challenges."
"I felt like for the first time I could really breathe. Prior to that, every doctor said my stomach must have just been a birthmark… Finally, this is making some sense."
Although the model was diagnosed with chimerism several years ago, it took a while for her to come to terms with the condition. Initially, she made an effort to hide her stomach, but now she openly flaunts her birthmark and speaks candidly about the realities of living with chimerism.
"I don’t have to hide who I am anymore and it’s a great feeling," she concluded.