Gill, right, was there every step of the way for twin sister Wendy
Gill and her twin sister shared everything, but there was one journey they couldn’t go on together...
Cradling the phone against my ear, I thumbed through hangers of clothes.
‘I think I’ll wear my red, sleeveless dress,’ I announced. ‘And I’m bringing a gift voucher.’
‘Good,’ replied my sister, Wendy. ‘Don’t want us doubling up again!’
It was February 2015, and me and Wendy, my identical twin, were debating what to wear and take to a family party.
We were well-known for turning up at events in the same dress, not knowing the other had bought it.
And I’d lost count of the times we’d bought someone the same gift.
‘I’ll wear my blue dress
– it’ll likely be the only one
I’ll fit into,’ Wendy grumbled.
Poor Wendy had been moaning about her weight a lot recently.
While I’d taken up running a few years earlier and was down to a slim size 8, Wendy had inched up to a size 14, although most of her weight seemed to have gathered round her tummy.
Wendy didn’t take criticism well, so I knew to tread carefully...
‘Come for a run with me at lunchtime tomorrow,’ I suggested gently.
At 57, we’d lived up and down the country, helped each other through a failed marriage each, and somehow we’d found our way back together in neighbouring villages in Kent.
I was married to Mark, 54, and had a son, Ben, 33, while Wendy had been with her partner, John, for 20 years, and was mum to Steven,
34, and Lisa, 32.
We even worked together in the same office, both as building control administrators. It suited us perfectly.
We were best friends as well as sisters.
That Saturday, at the party, we were first on the dance floor when Dancing Queen came on.
‘You are my dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeeeen,’ we sang.
It was a brilliant night. But in the weeks that followed, Wendy kept moaning about her weight.
‘I have a pain under my ribcage, too,’ she complained one day. ‘Go to the doctor,’ I urged.
‘He’ll just tell me I’m fat!’ she snapped.
I rolled my eyes. We’d never had an argument, not one – I wasn’t starting now.
But in April, Wendy rang me after she’d finally been to see her GP.
I felt Wendy’s pain…
‘They’re sending me for a scan,’ she said. ‘It might be ovarian cysts.’
‘I had those a few years back, remember?’ I assured her. ‘They’re easily removed.’
The next day, she’d just got into work when her mobile rang. As she answered it, her face went ashen. ‘What’s wrong?’ I frowned. ‘I need more scans,’ she croaked.
day, she rang me, her voice weird, almost robotic.
‘I’ve got ovarian cancer, stage 3,’ she said. A chill ran down my spine.
‘It must be wrong,’ I gasped. ‘It’s not,’ Wendy said. ‘I’ve got cancer.’
That was why she’d put on weight around her tummy – abdominal bloating was one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
I felt Wendy’s pain as much as she did.
After work, I went straight to her, pulled her in for a big hug. Her eyes were red and swollen.
‘It’ll be OK,
I promise,’ I choked.
‘I need chemo,’ she whispered.
I didn’t know what to say. I’d always had the right words – and I’d known how to look after my twin.
For the first time ever,
I was stumped.
‘You’ll get through this,’ I vowed. ‘I’ll be with you every step of the way.’
But despite starting chemo almost immediately, Wendy seemed to deteriorate rapidly.
She was in and out of hospital, and would often spend weeks there at a time.
And she constantly had
cold feet, so I’d buy her thermal socks and rub her feet to try to get the circulation going.
‘Is that better?’ I smiled one day.
‘Just perfect!’ she snapped bitterly. Then she turned her back on me.
Tears stung my eyes.
‘I’m only trying to help,’
I wept to Mark later.
‘It’s got to be hard for her,’ he soothed. ‘When she sees you, she sees what she should look like. Except now she’s bloated, pale and losing her hair…’
He was right. Wendy’s lovely shiny long black hair was coming away in clumps now.
I was a constant reminder of what she should have.
‘We’ve just never had an argument before,’ I sighed.
It was also playing on my mind that, because we were identical, I had a high chance of carrying the same cancer gene. So I visited my GP.
‘We’ll get you tested,’ he assured me.
Wendy’s appetite wasn’t great, but one day when
I was visiting the hospital, she’d ordered a turkey salad, but they’d run out.
‘How about I get us a KFC,’ I grinned.
It was our favourite.
‘Go on, then,’ she said.
I got us a bargain bucket, and watching her nibble on the chicken, I smiled.
‘Hey, remember when we both craved Mars ice creams?’ I asked.
The light flickered back into her eyes.
‘I did when pregnant with Steven, then when you were expecting Ben, I found myself stocking the freezer with them again,’ she smiled.
‘I didn’t even know you had the same craving.’ Happy memories…
But she was so weak, we’d spend our time watching Corrie or Jeremy Kyle. The cancer was just aggressive – it spread to her liver and lungs. We knew she didn’t have long left and, on 29 October, the hospital had a bed sent home for her.
Wendy was skeletal now.
I no longer felt like I was looking in the mirror.
‘Hey,’ I smiled. She gave a weak smile back.
‘Ben’s here,’ I said softly. ‘That’s nice,’ she whispered. I gave her a kiss.
‘I love you,’ I whispered. ‘Love you, too,’ she croaked. I knew she didn’t have long, but I wasn’t expecting to get a call from Lisa the following day at midday.
‘Mum’s gone,’ she sobbed. Unable to stop shaking,
I was in no state to drive, so a colleague drove me to Wendy’s house. When I walked in, she was still lying in the bed.
But death had brought the sister I remembered back to me.
She looked more like her old self, at peace…
‘What will I do without you?’ I wept. Later, Mark took me to collect my car from work.
When I switched the engine on, the radio crackled into life…
‘Oh, Wendy!’ I cried.
Tears stung my eyes…
Enya, her favourite artist, was playing.
It was a sign from her. A couple of days later, I went to see Wendy in the chapel of rest.
‘I’m glad you warned me you were her twin,’ the undertaker smiled. ‘I’d have got a terrible fright.’
‘Wendy would’ve laughed at that,’ I smiled.
And my sister kept letting me know she was around. Exactly a week after her death, me and Mark were in the car.
I kept glancing at the clock as it ticked closer to 11.45am – the time she’d passed away.
And as it did, her favourite Enya song, Shepherd Moons,
‘Thank you, Wendy,’ I sighed.
We played that at her cremation, along with Dancing Queen.
‘Hope you’re dancing up in heaven,’ I thought.
A few weeks later, I was in a petrol station when a man called out, ‘Wendy!’ My heart skipped a beat…
Hanging up the nozzle,
I went over to him. ‘I’m not Wendy,’ I explained. ‘I’m sorry, but she died. I’m her twin.’ ‘Right,’ he grinned.
It took me ages to convince him I wasn’t joking.
She’s been gone two years now. I was recently in a cafe when I noticed a woman staring at me.
‘Are you Wendy’s twin?’ she croaked. I nodded.
‘I, I thought it was her at first,’ she stuttered.
My heart broke for her.
It was like I was making people relive their grief all over again.
For those few seconds, they believed Wendy was back from the dead…
But I know all too well she’s gone for ever. The hole in my heart tells me that.
I had my ovaries removed as a precaution and, thankfully, the tests to see if I had the BRCA1 gene came back negative.
I refuse to let Wendy’s death be in vain, though.
I raise money for Ovarian Cancer Action now, and I urge women to go to the doctor as soon they experience any symptoms. Wendy might still be here if she’d made an appointment sooner.
I know it’s hard for Mum and Wendy’s children seeing me sometimes, but I hope it’s comforting, too.
In me, a part of her will live on for ever.
We were extremely close
You could say we had a similar eye for style!
Wendy (left) and me
I now raise money for Ovarian Cancer Action
We helped each other with life’s ups and downs