LAKE STATION | When identical twins Allison Pitman and Amanda Taylor were toddlers, Pitman would help Taylor climb into Pitman's crib so the two could sleep side by side.
Now Taylor is lending the helping hand. For the second time, she has been a bone marrow donor for Pitman.
Best friends since birth, the twins share friend groups and live on the same block.
"We have always been inseparable," Taylor said.
When Pitman first was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia at 20 years old, she turned to Taylor for support.
“I remember when she called me and told me that she had it,” Taylor said. “Of course when you hear leukemia ... it really hit me hard. I was willing to do anything.”
Because Taylor is an identical twin, doctors knew her body had what Pitman needed.
“They actually didn't even test our older brother and sister, because they knew I'd be a match,” Taylor said.
Without hesitation, she donated.
For seven years, Pitman was in remission. But in November, just a few months after participating in a Relay For Life fundraiser, Pitman got sick. Tests on the mother of three showed her leukemia had returned.
“When she relapsed, they realized maybe I wasn't the best option,” Taylor said.
Doctors tested the older siblings. Her brother wasn't a match. Her sister was, but she was pregnant and unable to donate. So, they turned again to Taylor, knowing Pitman could relapse in a few years.
“I had to take a shot called Neupogen for four days, twice a day,” Taylor said.
Intense bone pain was a major side effect of the self-administered shots. When Taylor's body was prepped, the 28-year-old mother of two went to the University of Chicago hospital and underwent apheresis.
The process had Taylor sitting for six hours, a needle in each arm. One needle drew blood and sent it through a machine that culled stem cells and then pumped blood back into her body via the needle in her other arm.
This stem cell transplant procedure is one of the methods used in patients. It serves the same purpose as a traditional bone marrow transplant.
"It really breaks my heart that Allison has had to fight this awful disease, not only once, but twice now," Taylor said. "I couldn't imagine my life without her, and I am blessed that I have been able to donate twice to her for her bone marrow transplant."
Pitman feels the same about her twin.
"It means the world to me," she said. "I'm very grateful to have her in my life as my sister and best friend."
The fight is not over.
“She's got a long road for recovery,” said Pamela Hutchison, their mother.
Part of that is tackling the medical expense, she said.
A fundraiser is scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. April 21 at St. Bridget parish center, 568 E. 2nd St., Hobart.
There will be a bone marrow drive during the benefit.
"As having donated twice, I encourage people to join the bone marrow registry and possibly save someone's life," Taylor said.