Ever since she was a little girl, Taylor Muhl knew she was different — she just didn’t know how or why. But after this uniqueness started affecting her health, she decided to get to the bottom of the mystery. What she discovered was something that not even the medical community was prepared for.
Taylor was born and raised in California. When she was growing up, her family started to notice a strange marking on her stomach. She had a straight line that ran down the center of her abdomen, and her skin was slightly redder on the left side than on the right. They figured it was a birthmark, not discovering its true nature until years later.
Taylor’s grandfather, Edward Muhl, was once the head of production at Universal Studios. Thanks to him, Taylor was around show business from an early age, and she developed a passion for it. She loved dancing, so her parents enrolled her in dance class. Once she was around other girls her age, she realized she was not like them.
When Taylor and her friends changed into her dance costumes, she noticed that none of the girls had a marking on their stomachs like she did. “That’s when I first realized that I was different,” she says. Wanting to fit in, Taylor tried to hide her birthmark. But there were other strange things about her she could not hide from.
Aside from the birthmark, Taylor’s body had other quirks. “Everything on the left side of my body is slightly larger than the right side,” she wrote on her blog. “I have a double tooth on the left side of my mouth.” Those abnormalities seemed harmless. But when she reached her teenage years, she began having health problems.
Taylor developed allergies and sensitivities to pretty much everything around her — foods, medications, supplements, jewelry, and even insect bites. She started experiencing strong autoimmune reactions that were seemingly random. Her health was deteriorating, but doctors didn’t know why.
Trying to figure out what was wrong with her, Taylor bounced from doctor to doctor, but all of them were stumped by her situation. None of them could give her a straight answer as to what she was suffering from. Finally, in 2009, she found a doctor who gave her the diagnosis that solved her life’s mystery.
As it turns out, Taylor has a very rare condition known as tetragametic chimerism. In simple terms, this means she is her own twin. When she was conceived, her mother actually produced two eggs which were fertilized by two different sperms. In the early stages of development, one embryo absorbed the other one and its DNA with it. For Taylor, this explained all her abnormalities.
Taylor has two sets of DNA, two separate bloodstreams, and two different immune systems. The left side of her torso is a different color because those skin cells contain her twin’s genetic makeup. She has two blood types: one is hers and one is her sister’s. She also finally knew why she had so many health problems.
Taylor’s immune system does not recognize her twin’s cells as her own, so it treats them as foreign matter. This means that it’s constantly fighting to get rid of them, causing the allergic reactions and autoimmune flare-ups that have been plaguing Taylor her whole life. But putting a name on her condition didn’t provide all the answers.
It is estimated that only about 100 people in the world have been diagnosed with chimerism. In fact, it’s so rare, that most physicians never learn about it in medical school. This means there is still so much that is unknown about Taylor’s condition. For example: could she possibly remember having a twin sister?
In an interview with The Doctors, Taylor said she always had the sense that she did not come into this world alone. As a little girl, she would pester her mother, asking her, “did I have a twin sister?” She also remembers wanting her and her friends to dress alike and look alike all the time. Science still doesn’t have the answers to that and many other questions about chimerism.
Back in 2006, a woman with chimerism almost lost custody of her children. The kids’ DNA didn’t match that of her own blood samples, leading authorities to believe she wasn’t their mother. It wasn’t until her attorney found out about chimerism that he had other tissue samples tested to prove she carried two DNA strands. Though this was an extreme case, Taylor believes it’s important to raise awareness about the condition.
As a singer, Taylor is aware of the pressure that exists to look perfect. She wants to change that by talking about her own ‘defects’. “I felt it was important to show my entire physical demarcation because in the entertainment business there’s an overwhelming amount of pressure to appear physically perfect or within a certain physical stereotype,” she wrote. She also hopes she can be an inspiration to others.
“I hope by showing my own imperfections I can inspire others who have physical abnormalities or who are different, to never let that stop them from pursuing their dreams, to love themselves unconditionally and to know they’re beautiful just the way they are,” said Taylor. “You have to embrace what God gave you.”