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Living With A Brain Tumor: 11-Year-Old Twins Share Their Story

Sophie Posner-Brown (left) was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 2 years old. She and her twin sister Isabelle talk about life with a serious illness.
Sophie Posner-Brown (left) was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 2 years old. She and her twin sister Isabelle talk about life with a serious illness.

In today's episode we're not answering any questions. Instead, we're going to talk with 11-year-old twins Isabelle and Sophie Posner-Brown. When Sophie was two, she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She's had three surgeries and lots of chemotherapy, but she's been on a break from chemo for the last four years. The twins talked with But Why about what it's like to live with Sophie's illness.


The type of tumor Sophie has is called a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma. JPA is a rare childhood brain tumor. Even though Sophie has had surgery to remove most of the tumor, surgeons can't get all of it because of its location on her brain stem. So Sophie will always have to live with not only the tumor itself but the effect it has on her ability to move and learn and the side effects of all her treatments.

Sophie says her tumor and all the various medical appointments and illnesses she has because of it have impacted her ability to go to school and the way she learns. And Isabelle admits that it can sometimes be difficult to be the healthy sibling when it means she can't do some of the activities she'd like to do, like travel with her soccer team or get attention from her parents.

But Sophie tries to look on the bright side.

"Even when there are tough parts along the way, there are good parts that come out of it," she says. And Sophie suggests that kids who are going through serious medical procedures might benefit from bringing along a stuffed animal to cuddle. She still has her stuffed bunny, Lou, who has been with her through all her surgeries and treatments.

Isabelle has advice for kids who might have a friend going through a serious illness.

"You can ask questions to your friends, but don’t make it what you’re whole friendship is based on. Don’t make it all you talk about because these kids are also normal, just with something different about them," Isabelle says.

The twins argue and tease one another like any other siblings do, but they say they're also very close friends. Sophie says Isabelle has the magical ability to always make her laugh. And Isabelle praises Sophie's emotional strength and the way she thinks outside the box.

To hear the twins in their own words, listen to the full episode.

Read the full transcript

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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