CHICAGO — Shane Green is casually chatting about college basketball with his brother, Shawn, at lunch. If it weren’t already evident they’re identical twins, on this chilly fall day they wore matching outfits — the same winter vests — which they swear was unplanned.
As Shane catalogs some of their favorite teams, one being Wichita State, his brother perks up to offer his take. Shawn cannot speak, but through his body language, Shane picks up what he’s thinking and translates.
“We love their toughness,” Shane deadpans, as Shawn gestures behind him with a grin and a head nod.
Toughness is a theme the 41-year old Greens, die-hard fans and former college basketball players, have worn like armor over the past year as Shawn has been battling stage 4 cancer. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009 and had a successful surgery to remove it.
But the tumor resurfaced, more aggressively, in October of 2015, and it’s since taken away much of his ability to talk. He also walks with a cane now or uses a wheelchair to get around, with most of the right side of his body paralyzed.
But much like when they were young kids growing up, the twins have been there through thick and thin to pick each other up — physically and psychologically.
“His pain is my pain,” Shane says emotionally, while lifting the recliner of a chair at Northwestern Memorial Hospital as chemo shoots through an IV into Shawn’s veins. “People think I’m helping him. He’s the one who is fighting so damn hard. He’s helping me.”
Shane has a tattoo on his right side with two letter “S's” mirroring each other in the center of a shield. “It’s me protecting him,” Shane says. And the two both have “every day is a good day” tattooed on their torsos.
One of those good days included Shane pushing Shawn — in an adult-sized stroller, no less — at the Chicago Half Marathon in what could be their last race together in September. The pair had run the race for the last five years and were determined not to break tradition because of cancer. With the stroller crossing the finish line first, Shawn once again beat his slower brother.
“It was an amazing moment to see them cross that finish line,” says Shawn’s wife, Erin, who asserts that the twins have always been inseparable.
“They’d be married to each other if that were an option,” she quips. Erin dated Shawn since she was 14 in the twins’ hometown of Bernie, Mo. They live in Chicago with their 3-year-old daughter, Avery.
“Shane and Shawn are always together because their love is unconditional. ...And they literally share everything, outside of social security. Their bond is something special.”