Photos of Taylor provide a clue as to how this happened.
Imagine being your own twin. One woman knows exactly what that feels like—she has chimerism, a rare genetic disorder in which someone has two sets of DNA.
Singer and model Taylor Muhl first opened up about her condition last year. “I’m a fraternal twin who fused together with my sibling in the womb and carry their genetic makeup within my own body,” she writes on her blog.
As you can see in photos, Taylor has what appears to be a birthmark where one side of her torso has a different pigment than the other side. This, she says, is where she absorbed her twin.
Taylor says she’s been told she has two immune systems and two bloodstreams, which poses unique challenges for her health. Geneticist Brandon Colby, M.D., appeared on The Doctors last year after examining Taylor. “…I confirmed that her symptoms are consistent with chimerism. Because people with chimerism have two immune systems, it is known that people have allergies and strong reactions to medications that really don’t affect most people.”
Colby also said he was excited to meet Taylor because the disorder is so rare.
‘I DEAL WITH PAIN ALL DAY LONG’
Because of her autoimmune condition, Taylor says she reacts to “foods, medications, supplements, jewelry, and insect bites.”
“My body treats my sibling’s genetic makeup as foreign matter and wants to reject it—but can’t. It strips my immune system daily. Stress and lack of sleep makes things more severe,” Taylor told Women’s Health in an interview.
Among other problems, Taylor suffers from acid reflux, neuropathy, borderline fibromyalgia, and endometriosis. While she’s on birth control for her endometriosis, which helps relieve terrible menstrual cramps, the medication also predisposes her to autoimmune flare-ups, she says.
Over the years, it’s been trial and error to see what works to control her symptoms. “I deal with chronic body pain all day long, from my neck to my toes,” she says. Homeopathic remedies, like Epsom salt baths, massage, exercise, an organic diet, and juicing “agrees with my body better. I’ve made a choice not to go on any medication for the autoimmune condition. For me, it would probably be a detriment to my health rather than a good,” adds Taylor.
As for discovering her diagnosis: “My first reaction was shock,” Taylor told People in an interview. “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 I hopefully could have been close to’. There was some sadness.”
HOW COMMON IS CHIMERISM?
Chimera or chimerism isn’t even listed on the National Organization for Rare Disorders, but other cases have been in the news.
In 2014, one Washington state woman discovered she’d absorbed her twin in the womb after DNA tests found she had different DNA than her three children, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. (Genetically, she was more like an aunt to her children than a mother.)
A similar case in Washington noted a paternity test revealed that a man was not his son’s father. Further genetic tests revealed he was technically his uncle, as he carried some of his unborn fraternal twin’s DNA, Time says.
For all of Taylor’s challenges, her attitude remains upbeat. “I definitely have moments behind closed doors where I have meltdowns,” she says. However, it’s thinking about celebrities who are living with health issues, like Lady Gaga, that keeps her inspired.
“Now that my story has become public, I have a responsibility to help or inspire people in any way I can and continue to spread awareness and be an advocate for autoimmune diseases,” she says.
Taylor is also a strong believer in the body-positivity movement. “I want all of us to support each other regardless of our size, shape, and color and physical abnormalities,” she says.