AGONY OF BROT
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
Ne the m stran day i
Hi and later, mean of ho
“T had a Mari of-fa
Sh that Noth
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’