When twins Adam and Neil Pear­son were ba­bies, they looked so alike their mother once ac­ci­den­tally fed one of them twice be­cause she strug­gled to tell them apart.

But now, strangers never believe the 31-year-olds are iden­ti­cal twins.

Adam’s face has been left se­verely dis­fig­ured af­ter tu­mours started grow­ing when he was a young­ster.

He has had 33 op­er­a­tions to re­move them and is blind in one eye and los­ing the sight in the other.

Neil shares the same ge­netic con­di­tion, neu­rofi­bro­mato­sis, but it has not af­fected him in the same way. He suf­fers from mem­ory loss and epilepsy.

The brothers have left the med­i­cal world baffled – so much so a sci­en­tific pa­per has been writ­ten about them.

Tonight they fea­ture in a BBC2 doc­u­men­tary, Hori­zon: My Amaz­ing Twin, which fol­lows their bid to find out if any­thing can be done to stop the disease de­stroy­ing their lives.

Neil says: “My main in­ter­est is the ge­netic side of things. I know about how it af­fects me and Adam knew about how it af­fects him. But we’ve never been di­rectly com­pared to each other.”

Adam adds: “I was aware we might not get good news in the process but we would deal with it to­gether.”

The brothers grew up in Croy­don, South Lon­don, where they live with their par­ents Mar­i­lyn, 66, and Pa­trick, 63.

Mar­i­lyn, a re­tired lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cer, says there was noth­ing to sug­gest there was any­thing wrong with her sons when they were born.

Re­call­ing the time she got them mixed up while feed­ing them, she laughs: “I couldn’t un­der­stand why Neil was cry­ing and Adam wasn’t in­ter­ested. And we were look­ing at some old photos re­cently and I couldn’t tell them apart in some.”

The twins were di­ag­nosed with NF1 – type 1 of the disease – shortly be­fore their fifth birth­day af­ter Adam bumped his fore­head and the lump failed to go down.

Mar­i­lyn says: “It was a slow pro­gres­sion. Even­tu­ally we got re­ferred to Great Or­mond Street Hospi­tal and a scan showed there was a fi­broma in his neck block­ing his wind­pipe.

“It was the start of many op­er­a­tions. He was in in­ten­sive care. It was very scary.”

When Neil did not show any symp­toms, Mar­i­lyn says she thought he had es­caped the con­di­tion dis­fig­ur­ing his brother.

“We re­ally thought that,” she says. “We thought he’d got away with it.”

Neil ac­knowl­edges he had an eas­ier child­hood than his twin be­cause there was noth­ing vis­i­bly wrong with him. But it was al­ways hang­ing over him.

He says: “I was aware I could de­velop a fa­cial dis­fig­ure­ment as I grew up. When I hit my teens there was a chance of it hap­pen­ing be­cause you go through a growth spurt and the tu­mours grow at the same rate.”

At se­condary school, Adam, who has since forged a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a TV pre­sen­ter and ac­tor, was bul­lied be­cause of his dis­fig­ure­ment.

He says: “I used to stand out­side the school gates in the morn­ing, take a mas­sive deep breath and let it hap­pen. I knew what I was in for. It was con­tin­u­ous name-call­ing – the clas­sic ‘Ele­phant Man, freak...’”

Neil talks with pride about how his twin coped with the daily men­tal tor­ture, say­ing: “Adam was very con­fi­dent and out­go­ing as a child so he was able to de­fend him­self.

“He’s got a good sense of hu­mour which he used to his ad­van­tage.”

Watch­ing his brother seem­ingly un­af­fected by the disease can’t have been easy for a young Adam but he says he has never ques­tioned the card ge­net­ics has dealt him.

He says: “Once I started think­ing like that the bul­lies had won.

“It’s about the life you have, not the one you don’t. It wasn’t an emo­tion­ally pro­duc­tive thing to do.

“For me, it’s all I’ve ever known. It’s very much a part of me.

“It would have been like ask­ing: ‘Why am I this tall?’”

Then, in July 1999, the 14-year-old twins were re­turn­ing home from an evening out when Neil couldn’t re­mem­ber where he had been or what he had done.

Adam says: “We’d gone out with some mates to a youth club and we were stand­ing out­side our front door when Neil asked: ‘Where have we just been?’

“At first I thought he was mess­ing about even the jo

Ma tired

Ne the m stran day i

Hi and later, mean of ho

“T had a Mari of-fa

Sh that Noth

Th along

AGED 3 Twins be­fore they were di­ag­nosed MOVIE STAR Adam with Scar­lett Jo­hans­son in Un­der The S MUM Mar­i­lyn says ‘noth­ing is end of the world’

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