Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Power of Two

Update 09/22/2013: 
"With profound sadness as well as tremendous gratitude for her two organ donors and donor families, the love of so many family, friends and fans, and the brightness she brought to all of our lives, we regret to share that Ana Stenzel passed away... following a hard fought battle with intestinal cancer. With her transplanted lungs, she was breathing easy until the end. We are so pleased that Ana's legacy will live on in "The Power Of Two" and in all of our hearts." --The Power of Two

March 2012:

Isabel Stenzel Byrnes & Anabel Stenzel

We've heard Anabel's story about the process of publishing and now Isabel elaborates on the journey that followed.

Click here for information about The Power of Two premiere movie showing in Kansas City

My name is Isabel Stenzel Byrnes, and my twin Ana and I published, The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis in 2007. Ana already elaborated on our writing journey, but I’d like to share our adventures following the release of our book. Only nine months after the publication of the UMP memoir, my Japanese mother’s long-time friend submitted a query letter to several Japanese publishers. Iwanami Shoten, the second largest publisher in Japan, agreed to translate The Power of Two. After painstakingly editing down the manuscript to one-third of its’ length, Mirakuru Tzuinzu (Miracle Twins) was translated and published in September, 2009. Just a few months earlier, after much debate, Parliament passed Japan’s groundbreaking organ donation law, thus making organ transplantation a hot topic for public discussion. Organ donation remains highly controversial in Japan, a country that generally does not accept brain death and has numerous religious superstitions about death—and organ donation. Our book would be a welcome personal story to highlight the benefits of organ donation to recipients, while also portraying the healing from grief that organ donation can offer to donor families. A small group of Japanese organ donation and cystic fibrosis advocates embraced our book and organized a ten- city book tour. After speaking limited Japanese in the home growing up, Ana and I crammed and prepared professional, medically-oriented Japanese lectures about our lives, perspectives on illness and death and the ethics of organ donation. Our mission: to be outspoken Japanese-American advocates for this life-saving cause.

A few months before our anticipated Japan tour, my husband, Andrew Byrnes, met a filmmaker who focused on social causes. Marc Smolowitz, an Academy-Award nominated filmmaker, read our book immediately and felt compelled to create a film. Since Ana and I had retained the rights to film from UMP, our plunge into cinematic storytelling was rather straightforward. My husband-turned-producer initiated fundraising efforts, and before long, a film crew of five joined us for a 26-day tour of Japan in October, 2009. We traveled from tropical Okinawa to cool northern Sendai; we lectured all over Tokyo and managed to visit historic temples in Kyoto, in between lectures at medical schools and public consortiums. Our relatives joined several events and we appreciated the chance for such a special reunion. The book received positive reviews and sold well at our events, although we couldn’t read it ourselves! The Japanese were visibly fascinated by our stories: in Japan, illness carries a stigma and most patients are not public about their experiences.

After capturing nearly two hundred hours of interviews and scenes of the Japan Transplant Games and other cystic fibrosis and organ donation awareness activities, we returned home. Marc and Andrew decided to contrast Japan’s organ donation situation with film shoots at the U.S. Transplant Games and our advocacy work in Washington, D.C. After tremendous efforts, we raised enough money to complete the 94-minute film, also called “The Power Of Two.” While the film is inspired by our UMP memoir, it is so much more than our story. The film is a story about hope, survival and love. It also highlights the miracle of breath: something that we can all cherish. By featuring people who are waiting for- and who have received- the gift of lung transplantation, we are sharing the experience of a small segment of society who struggles to breathe, and who find that struggle alleviated by the generosity of organ donors. The complex cultural issues highlighted make this film globally relevant.

Since the film’s release, “The Power Of Two” film has been accepted into 20 film festivals and has received seven awards. In August, 2011, the film premiered at the Oscar-qualifying DocuWeeks theatrical showcase in Los Angeles and New York City, and in October, the film premiered in Asia at the Tokyo International Film Festival. We will secure a film distributor in the U.S. and Japan shortly. In this competitive cinematic landscape, we are very satisfied with the film’s success. We have also hosted numerous community screenings nationwide with non-profits and educational institutions to use the film to educate the public about cystic fibrosis and organ donation.

What a whirlwind! We never, ever imagined that our life experiences with CF would unfold into such extraordinary benefits like a UMP memoir, a Japanese memoir, and now a documentary film! And, these opportunities are just the icing on our cake of life... just to be alive and breathing well is a gift enough, and now we have one blessed opportunity unfolding after another. We are especially grateful to the entire UMP staff, which has supported us tremendously through our unconventional publishing adventure.

Thank you for reading our blogs. Right now, please stop and take a slow, deep breath and feel your life force enter all the way to the depths of your lungs. If you’d like to see if “The Power Of Two” film will be screening in your area, please visit our website at Thank you for your interest. May you be blessed with deep breaths always,

Isabel Stenzel Byrnes
To sign up to be an organ donor, visit

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