Japanese American National Museum
Press Releases


Chris Komai - - 213-830-5648


Anabel, Isabel Stenzel to Answer Questions at Free Tateuchi Public Program June 30

Los Angeles

Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and Anabel Stenzel, twin sisters whose mother is Japanese, will be on hand to answer questions after a screening of the documentary, "The Power of Two" (with Japanese subtitles), about their lives and how they struggled to overcome cystic fibrosis (CF) in a special Tateuchi Public Program at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) on Saturday, June 30, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum. This program is free, but reservations are encouraged by calling JANM at (213) 625-0414, extension 2218.

The Tateuchi Public Program Series, organized in partnership between the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation and JANM, develops presentations that explore the connections between Japan and the United States in the context of politics, art, music, and culture. The program series is created annually with the objective of enhancing understanding between the two countries.

When twins Isabel and Anabel were born to Reiner Stenzel and Hatsuko Arima, they were almost immediately diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes abnormal transport of salt and water in the lungs, digestive tract and sweat glands. The result is the lungs fill up with mucus, which affects breathing and pancreatic functions. The prognosis in 1972 was for the girls to live less than 10 years.

In growing up in Pacific Palisades, Anabel’s and Isabel’s lives revolved around treatment, therapy and long stays in the hospital while trying to stay in school. Home therapy involved someone smacking the sisters in their backs to help them cough up excess mucus in their lungs. Despite these challenges, the girls were able to live in Japan, visit their grandparents in Germany and attend Cystic Fibrosis Summer Camp with other young people with CF. Yet, their condition remained the center of their lives.

Anabel wrote, "I am really scared sometimes when I can’t stop coughing or breathe. When my breathing becomes so labored I get so sick of it. I feel like just yelling STOP! and relaxing my lungs for once. I sometimes wonder what life without coughing, doing therapy, or taking medications would be like. I wish I could take my new bike and just ride away from it all and have just one day without a cough, weakness or the thought of dying."

While the sisters beat the odds and enrolled at Stanford University, they suffered as their friends with CF passed away. Anabel and Isabel also struggled with the reality that while they were twins, their conditions were different as were their personalities and social development. Their love and loyalty for each other was strained by sibling rivalry and the natural desire for individuality.

"As we attained physical maturity, Ana and I found the curtain rising to reveal a new stage: sexuality,” Isa wrote. “I remained painfully self-conscious and shy about my newfound sexuality, but Ana reveled in her emerging curiosity. She professed an expertise about sexuality despite her naiveté and inexperience. Like me, she had yet to find a real boyfriend.”

Ultimately, both sisters faced the hard reality that their lungs would fail them at some point. Their last resort was lung transplantation. But, as one of their doctors warned, “With lung transplantation, you’re trading one disease for another. Lung transplantation is not lifesaving, it is life-prolonging. There are no guarantees. You will be immunosuppressed for the rest of your life.”

The sisters originally put much of their experiences in a book they co-authored, The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis (2007), and now in the documentary with the same name that will be screened. The film, produced and directed by Academy Award-nominated producer Marc Smolowitz, has garnered many awards from film festivals around the country. One observation the sisters make is that they were lucky to have been born in the United States and not Japan, where treatment for CF and organ transplantation are not as advanced.

The sisters will be on site to speak and answer questions after the film screening.



Jump to Top of Page Japanese American National Museum home   ▪   Privacy Policy
Copyright © 1998-2019 Japanese American National Museum
100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles California 90012   ▪   phone: 213.625.0414