A cancer diagnosis shook Walter Gordy’s life, but what happened afterwards was even more shocking.
Thirty-seven-year old Gordy — raised an only child — was diagnosed with lymphoma five years ago. After the Houston, Texas, resident recovered from his cancer, he took a 23andMe DNA test to learn if there were other illnesses or diseases in his family.
Gordy was conceived by sperm donation and was raised by his mother after his parents divorced.
One day, Gordy got a call from Mark Tolson, a casual friend of 12 years. Tolson, 36, told Gordy that he had done a 23andMe DNA test also and that his results revealed something shocking: the pals were half-brothers.
“My head was spinning,” Gordy told Global News. “It was completely unreal, but I was super excited. We live about 15 minutes from each other. How crazy is that?”
Tolson was also in disbelief.
“Imagine going 35 years knowing you don’t have a sibling, and then boom — you find out,” he told Global News.
After Gordy got off the phone with Tolson, he went to his 23andMe profile and checked his matches. When he saw Tolson’s name now also on his page, he called his friend back.
“He was like, ‘I got a nephew now!’ Because he knows I have a son,” Tolson said. “That was kind of when it really hit home.”
Like Gordy, Tolson was conceived through sperm donation. As an only child, he grew up wanting to learn more about his family tree. After his son was born, he decided to use 23andMe.
Another incredible part of their story? Gordy’s and Tolson’s mothers have been in the same church choir together for over 12 years, standing just feet apart, Tolson said. Neither of them knew their sons were related until the men tested their DNA.
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Tolson said his relationship with Gordy has only gotten better since learning they are related, and he feels an incredible closeness with him.
“I’ll share stuff with him that I wouldn’t share with anybody else,” Tolson said. “We’ve been travelling together and motivate each other… I really do love this guy, and we’ve become really close.”
Gordy feels the same way and said their relationship has become even “tighter.”
“We talk and text very often,” he said. “It’s like a light switch was turned on, and our brotherly instincts kicked in immediately.”
WATCH: Long-lost siblings reunited after more than 60 years of separation
The half-brothers are now looking for other possible family members, too. Tolson said the man who donated sperm probably did not think his identity would ever be discovered so they are mindful of respecting his privacy.
“Maybe he has a family now, and it might disrupt things so we’re trying to be cognizant of that,” Tolson said. “But we do want to find other siblings and our father.”
Today, Gordy is cancer-free and said his cancer diagnosis was a blessing because it led him to his brother.
“Cancer was the best thing that happened to me,” he said. “I’ve become a better person from it.”
“I was able to find a brother, and hopefully, we can both find more family.”