In January, Karen Andrews, an associate general counsel of Time Inc. who since 1990 has overseen the legal affairs of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, received a sobering phone call from her twin sister, Kathy Giusti. "I've been diagnosed with multiple myeloma," said Kathy.
A blood cancer that attacks the bone marrow, multiple myeloma is diagnosed each year in 13,000 new patients in the U.S. Currently there is no cure, although bone marrow transplants from suitable donors can produce better and longer remissions. "We immediately made a pact to fight this together," says Karen. "Kathy knows that I've always been right behind her."
Since birth, in fact. Seven minutes after Kathy entered the world on Nov. 17, 1958, Karen was born. At Wissahickon High, near their hometown of Blue Bell, Pa., Kathy played center forward on the field hockey team while Karen positioned herself a few yards back at center halfback. At the University of Vermont they lived in the same freshman dorm and later the same off-campus house, skied together every chance they got and chose the same major, biochemistry. In their class of 186 at the College of Agriculture, they graduated back-to-back in ranking.
Kathy, the executive director of G.D. Searle, a pharmaceutical company in Skokie, Ill., says that, as soon as her cancer was discovered, "Karen became my head coach, calling my doctors, doing research. Whenever she hears of a study being done on my disease, she calls and volunteers herself as a guinea pig." Karen volunteered to donate bone marrow to Kathy, without knowing if their marrow would match. "Even though we look alike, Kathy and I never knew if we were identical twins, because we had never undergone any testing," Karen says. "I had always assumed we weren't identical because she could curl her tongue and I couldn't."
Blood tests proved that the sisters are identical. Doctors will transplant marrow from Karen into Kathy when the multiple myeloma, which currently is in its preliminary stage, becomes active. Until then, Kathy, who lives in Lake Forest, Ill., with her husband, Paul, and their 22-month-old daughter, Nicole, and Karen, who resides in Greenwich, Conn., with her husband, John, and their 13-month-old son, J.J., will keep looking for other ways to fight the disease. For as long as they can—Karen is pregnant, and due in August—the two families will continue to attend myeloma seminars across the U.S., such as the one being conducted in Miami on June 15 by the International Myeloma Foundation. "Those have become our family vacations," says Karen. "We live for those days with each other." In their free time during the Miami seminar, the sisters plan to work on their golf games; recently they have taken up the sport together.
During her sister's illness, Karen has performed her legal duties with her usual perspicacity. In April she was promoted from assistant general counsel to associate general counsel. "Karen is demonstrating the same mix of tenacity and compassion in fighting her sister's disease that she does in her work, be it negotiating contracts or defending the magazine's First Amendment rights," says colleague Robin Bierstedt, vice president and deputy general counsel of Time Inc. "I'd say she's one of a kind, but obviously she's not."
"We're beyond sisters," explains Kathy, who says that the two rarely need to speak to communicate. "One way or another, Karen will always be inside of me."