The twin girls were born at 4:00 AM on July 4, Independence Day, in 2007. For this reason, they were called “firecracker babies,” although their parents were not yet aware of the blazing spirit they would need to get through what came next.
Madeline and Isabella were 5 pounds 12 ounces and 5 pounds 8 ounces, respectively. Their parents, Alissa and Michael Dunn, were elated.
“They were perfect sized little girls,” Alissa told CBN, smiling.
But two months later at a routine check-up, the doctor noticed that Madeline’s stomach unusually protruded from her body, to the point that it looked swollen.
“His face changed,” Michael said, “and I think we both knew this wasn’t going to be a normal check-up.”
At 2 months old, Madeline was diagnosed with cancer.
The Dunn family was sent to a local hospital for a thorough examination.
“They said when we first got there that it was no way that it was cancer because she was too young,” Alissa said, wiping her eyes.
“But the doctor came in, shaking, and said it is.”
Madeline was diagnosed with stage 4S Neuroblastoma, a rare malignant cancer found in young children and infants. On her abdomen grew a softball-sized tumor.
The horrible news stunned the young parents. But when Dr. Jeffrey Taub, MD, FAAP of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan had a lurking premonition about Isabella, Madeline’s twin sister, the family’s troubles doubled.
Both twins were diagnosed with the same exact cancer at the same exact same place. An incredibly rare medical situation, Dr. Taub hypothesized that the cancer spread in the womb, from Madeline to Isabella.
As twins, their blood vessels were connected to each other; Madeline’s cancer-ridden blood cells had thus infected her sister.
Dr. Taub knew that for two-month-old babies, treatment options were limited. Surgery was out of the question because their MRI lit up with tumors that completely filled their livers, so they began chemotherapy immediately.
At the beginning, the outcome looked bleak, but then something changed.
During their first round of treatment, the girls were separated. Alissa and Michael remembered that period as one of the most devastating times of their lives.
“Things started looking grim pretty quickly,” Alissa told CBN hoarsely. “They got sick really quick, and they were in so much pain. You couldn’t touch their skin, it looked like it would crack.”
But for the second round of treatment, things began to change for the better. Madeline and Isabella were reunited during the chemotherapy, and their parents’ hope was revitalized and renewed.
“It was huge. They started kicking and smiling, and they hadn’t done that in a month,” Alissa said.
“I think it was a turning point,” Michael said. “It really gave us hope to think that maybe we can get through this. Maybe the Lord will choose to heal them.”
The Dunn family finally got the news they were waiting for.
After 4 brutal rounds of chemotherapy, by October the girls were able to go home to finish their treatment. But it was during the chill of December, two weeks before Christmas, when they got the call.
With the Christmas tree lit, family over, and under the warm glow of the season, the Dunn family learned that Madeline and Isabella were officially cancer-free.
“We made it,” Michael told CBN. “Our girls were healed.”
Every year on their birthday since, the Dunn family have lit fireworks on July 4.
“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,” Michael added. “There’s no doubt in my mind, it was a miracle.”