Back in December, a friend posted on her facebook wall about a promotion that 23andMe was having. For those that do not know, 23andMe offers genetic testing for a wide variety conditions and carrier statuses, and throws in little tidbits about traits and information about ancestry, even allowing you to make contact with other potential relatives that have had testing done by 23andMe . I’ll admit that I’ve been fascinated with the idea of “knowing” since I first saw a consumer report on one our Canadian television stations highlighting a Canadian company that had started offering consultations and testing to individuals. At the time, testing was still quite expensive, but it got Mike and I talking about if we would want to know. Mike said, “definitely not,” but I was not quite so sure.
Flash forward a number of years, and here was a 99 dollar deal sitting right there on my facebook newsfeed. After nearly a year of mysterious symptoms, I felt quite justified impulsively purchasing a testing kit that very same evening. I could say that I wanted to see if I was at risk for gynecological issues/cancers. I could say that I wanted to get a definite answer about Celiac Disease. However, what I was doing was praying that testing would ease my mind about my absolute worst fear – Alzheimer’s Disease.
Testing was quite simple. I was promptly sent a vial in which to spit. It took a couple days to get around to that as it needs to be done when the mouth is clean (no food, drink for several hours) and my husband was too grossed out by the thought that I was sitting there in the next room spitting into a “spit catcher”. 23andMe provides a return shipment box. It couldn’t be easier. Spit, pop off spit catcher, seal vial, pop in specimen bag, seal, stick in box, register vial in your name, ship, and wait…..
Apparently a lot of people took advantage of this 23andMe deal and instead of a waiting time of 2 weeks, it took closer to 2 months to receive my report. The report was delivered right here to my computer. I was quite impressed with them. They were easy to follow and provided extra information on conditions. Increased risks for developing a disease was highlighted in red and you were giving a percentage chance of developing the condition as well as the number of times more likely you are then the general public of getting it. Decreased risks were highlighted in green. Results to conditions that normally cause people more concern (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, BRCA1 and BRCA2) were locked so that you could not see your results as soon as you logged into your account and had read additional information before you were taken to them.
The carrier status information was pretty straight forward. Good information to have as we have children, but they only test the most common variations and there’s still a chance that you could be carrying a rarer version. I’m only a carrier for 2 of the 30 conditions that they test for. Nice to know that I have a fair chance of making healthy babies (though, those days are likely over).
I loved the information on traits. A lot to read and a lot were bang on. I was a little sad to see that that do not have a resistance to norovirus (stomach flu, and if you know me, you know my fear of that is nearly as great as my fear of Alzheimer’s…..actually, it may be greater :p). I secretly hoped that would be the case. I did learn that I likely have brown hair, have a high degree of pain tolerance, am more likely to sneeze when I look at the sun and cannot taste the bitter component in cabbage/brussel sprouts. There’s so much to read in this section that I have not done so, yet, and I’ve had my results for several weeks now. I look forward to taking more time at a later date to read it all.
The ancestry stuff is pretty cool, but I’m not really into that info and other sources say it isn’t that complete. I’m not into genealogy so it wasn’t a drawing point for me. I’ve had lots of potential relatives try to reach me, but I haven’t attempted to make contact with anyone.
As for Alzheimer’s and the rest of my health? I do have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Double the risk actually. Do I feel bad to get that news? Not really. I always figured that there was a good possibility that I had a higher chance of developing it. Sure, I would have been relieved if my risk was lower than the general public, but now that I know that it isn’t, my intention is totally keep my mind sharp and use it well *lol*. My fear is that I’ll leave my family “stuck” taking care of me and that breaks my heart and I hope that is never the case, but if so, we’ll all be okay and while it won’t be something that I think of all the time, it is on my radar and my hope that is that if I ever develop symptoms we can catch them early and deal with it as it comes. I’m sure people have conversations about such things as they age in a relationship anyways. What shocked me most was that I have a much high (5 times risk….a 1 in 3 chance) of developing macular degeneration. That’s something that would never have been on my radar. I know now to keep up with eye exams (which I am very neglectful of doing) and eat lots of vision friendly foods. At least for this condition there are medications that can be taken to help slow/prevent further deterioration if it does become an issue down the road. I also have an increased risk of psoriasis which is not surprising as I already develop this in reaction to the sun every spring/summer if I do not keep my elbows/arms hidden or eat certain foods. There is something to this whole genetic thing after all. That being said, it isn’t something that at all says, “you are definitely going to get x, y, z” or “Congratulations! You are never going to get a, b, or c.” Genes are important, but there’s so much more that plays and part in sickness and health so I am very glad that I’ve taken the opportunity to have this testing done and I look forward to seeing what other developments that are made in this area of study over the years!