San Diego Health - Fall 2021


Wonder Twins

Twin sisters fight twice as hard against a painful genetic condition

IDENTICAL TWINS SHARE SO MUCH MORE THAN THEIR BIRTHDAY AND THEIR LOOKS. They also share their complete genetic code—the DNA that is otherwise unique to every individual. For sisters Michelle Paixio and Melissa Romberg, age 46, that shared DNA also means they share a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a hereditary disorder that causes noncancerous tumors to grow on the nerves throughout the body. Usually diagnosed in children due to signature “café au lait”– colored spots on the skin, NF1 is the most common form of neurofibromatosis and is often mild—sometimes so mild that people don’t even know they have it unless they go looking for it. For Michelle and Melissa, however, symptoms came on later in life—and once they did, they came with a vengeance, and the sisters had to go looking for answers. “It wasn’t untilmy sister and I bothhadourfirst children—more than 26 years ago—that the chronic pain started,” Melissa recalls. “We went from doctor to doctor and kept hearing that there was nothing wrong with us.” But both sisters knew something was terribly wrong.


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