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Genetic Makeup

Have you ever wondered what your DNA could tell you? Not only what your true nationality makeup is, and I mean down to the actual percentage, and what your specific risks are for certain diseases? I think most people are curious, but I decided to bite the bullet, take it to the next level and actually find out.

As I’ve mentioned before, my mom lost her battle with bladder cancer last September.  She was 62 years old. When the healthiest person you know gets something as ugly as cancer, and then dies because of it, it shakes your world. It makes you realize that you are not invincible and neither are your loved ones. I’m not totally naive, obviously everyone is going to die at some point in time. But when it happens for no rhyme or reason, it raises some questions. And when you are adopted you can’t just pick up the phone to get answers that you want.

My mom may not have been my biological mom but it doesn’t matter, she’s the only mom I’ve known. The same thing goes for my dad. I was adopted when I was four months old and have very sketchy paperwork from 1977 that my then-15-year-old biological mother filled out. While I believe in nurture rather than nature, I also believe in science. I researched genetic testing and decided it was something that I had to do. I wanted to know if I had a higher risk for cancer or any of the 10,683 other scary things out there that can kill you. I needed peace of mind.

I ordered my kit at the beginning of June and about a week later this cute little package showed up in our mailbox. I was giddy with excitement to finally have some answers but almost more scared to have them. I didn’t take the test right away. I waited a few days, bucked up, filled the test tube up with my saliva and sent it off to the lab. You can’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes prior to taking the test. That doesn’t sound like a long time but it is. Isn’t it funny how when you can’t have something you want it even more? It took me a good 15 minutes to fill the test tube up. I popped it in the mail and then I waited. And waited, and waited. My saliva had to be analyzed twice because I’m that awesome. Actually there wasn’t enough DNA in the first sample so they had to rerun the test. There is a small percentage of people that have inconclusive results and I was positive that was going to be me. However, a couple of days ago (six solid weeks later) I finally got an email saying that my results were in. One would think that I would have opened that email right away, but I didn’t. I was afraid. What if the results showed something? It’s not just me, we have five kids that I have to worry about. It’s one of those things that once you know you can’t unknow. I literally had Pandora’s Box in my hands and I didn’t know what to do.

It took me a few hours to work up the courage to open the results. I wanted to know, but I was afraid. Was I messing with something I shouldn’t be? Should I just live my life and let whatever happens happen? No. I had the answers in my hand and decided to tear into them. I had to. At first I skimmed, looking for anything with higher than normal numbers or anything in red print. I took Accounting with Mr. Grenier in high school and he taught us that red print is bad. My heartbeat got faster as I read on and I started to wish I had taken a Xanax prior to deciding I was brave and could handle whatever this report had in it.

 Then I saw it. Cancer. In red. A few choice words flew out and then I really started to read. A bomb could have gone off and my concentration wouldn’t have been shaken. Apparently I have an elevated risk for Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (ESCC) and Stomach Cancer (Gastric Cardia Adenocarcinoma). Statistically I still have less than a 1 percent chance so that isn’t so bad. But odds aren’t my friend. We have two sets of twins. The thing that I have the greatest risk of getting is Exfoliation Glaucoma. I’m not a doctor, but none of that sounds good.

After I let the initial shock set in, I decided that the results were a blessing. Just because I have an elevated risk for three things, literally out of about 75, that isn’t bad. It didn’t say anything about getting hit by a bus, a plane crashing, being attacked by a bear or shark, or what nearly happened last weekend when I got a leg cramp and almost drowned in the Crow Wing River. It doesn’t matter. Life is going to happen how it’s going to happen. I firmly believe everything happens for a reason. I’m going to die, hopefully later than sooner. Right now I am healthy and happy. I have a report that I can hand to my doctor instead of leaving forms blank or just guessing to avoid being questioned. Overall I’m glad I did it and I’d do it again. Oh, and cancer can kiss my.....