North News Jenny (left) and Helen
Meet Helen and Jenny, two sisters who have finally been reunited after a life time apart. Jenny had been searching for her biological family for nearly 50 years.
Their upbringings couldn't have been more different despite sharing the same biological parents. Jenny Lee Smith, 63, a former British Open champion golfer, was adopted and enjoyed a happy childhood, while Helen Edwards, 61, was raised by their mother and the man she thought was her birth father.
Jenny discovered she was adopted at 14, and set about tracking her natural parents down, unaware she also had a younger sister. She knew nothing about her biological parents. Her adoptive father died when she was 12 and her adoptive mother refused to speak about the 'taboo subject'.
She met her birth mum, Mercia in 2003, but she died a few months later. Mercia said she had another daughter called Helen, who Jenny assumed was a half-sister. DND tests later revealed the two sisters had the same biological father, Wilfred Harrison, whom neither of them had the chance to meet.
After phone calls and emails, Jenny and Helen arranged to meet in October 2007. It was the first they had ever met, as Jenny was given up for adoption at around six weeks old, in 1949.
"As soon as I saw her I knew it was Helen," says Jenny. "It was like looking at a mirror image."
"She walked out of the lift and we just fell into each other's arms," explains Helen.
There was no strangeness at all. It was almost as if we had known each other for years.
They have spent the last five years getting to know one another, and learning about their wildly different upbringings.
Helen left school at 15 without any qualifications, and worked as checkout girl after Tommy Lumsden, the man she believed was her father, demanded she work to support the family. She married at 19, and later divorced.
Jenny was privately educated in Newcastle upon Tyne, and represented the city and county as a champion swimmer, eventually choosing golf as her career.
In a further twist, the two sisters believe they might actually have met without realising a few years ago, when Helen was working as a nurse and Jenny was admitted to her hospital with a sports injury.
At one stage they were also staying within miles of each other in Florida.
"Every time we meet we're like two little girls," says Helen, who is married to a former teacher and Vietnam veteran. She has two children from her previous marriage.
It's how we would be if we had been children together. We giggle a lot and we have a lot of fun together. We've been through all our photograph albums, comparing families.
"I had a difficult childhood of disappointment, heartbreak and violence. I didn't have a clue about Jenny. Yet we always both felt something was missing from our lives. Now we know what it was. We missed out on our time together - but we're adamant it's something we're never going to lose again."
What a remarkable story. Enjoy your lives together Jenny and Helen!