Thanks For The Genes

My genes are probably the reason that my jeans are on the tight side.  I might be wrong about this.  It might be the cheese, but I’m sticking to my theory.

Genetic testing is all the rage these days. It seems everyone wants to know where their ancestors come from, and just how much Viking they are made up of. Who can resist finding out if you are going to die with Alzheimer or if you are likely to drop dead of a heart attack?

I can resist knowing this. It’s easier to resist than cheese on toast which goes some way to answer the mystery of the manner of my demise. It’s cheap as chips to take the test but I’ve never been tempted, until that is last year, when the chance came about for free. It happened courtesy of the NHS.

I know all I need to know about the genetics of my visual impairment. It works like Mendels’ beans. You need parents who carry the genes. Then it’s a game of Russian roulette. You make a baby and you see what you get. My parents got one of me and two others who are not like me. One out of three’s not bad.

How would I like to give blood and find out just what was in my genes?

“It’s of absolutely no interest to me as I already know. If it’s helpful to you then, of course, I’ll do it.”

She had a script and ploughed on. “It could be interesting for your son if he decides to have children. We can offer embryo selection.”

I can’t repeat what she said next but suffice to say, not much has changed in the thirty-five years since I went to my first anti-natal appointment and got offered a termination on the assumption that if you can’t see much you can’t raise a child.

“Why don’t I just go out into the car park and shoot myself now,” I said, to the midwife, as I closed the door on my way out.

I growled as the Research Fellow put the rubber band round my arm and started tapping for a vein. What began as a benign request for a spot of blood, in the pursuit knowledge, had left a sour taste in my mouth.

After several attempts on both arms, she finally managed to draw blood and then, on script, said. “I know how anxious you are to understand your condition. I’m afraid it could take up to six months but we’ll be in touch.”

“I’m not anxious. As I said. I already understand how it works.”

My GP got a letter telling her that I was anxious to understand my genes and that I had taken a genetic test. “Are you anxious?” she asked. I shook my head. “I didn’t think so.”

It’s an interesting interpritation of the truth, to request I take part in genetic testing, and then present it as a response to an anxiety I don’t have.

The letter finally arrived. I concede a flutter of curiosity.  What new insights would it deliver?

It hoped my anxieties would be put to rest. It told me nothing I didn’t already know.  It said it was a game of Russian roulette and that my children and parents were advised to be tested.

I’m fifty-six so I should think my parents would be done with breeding, even if they were still alive. As for the son, it’s too late. He’s already taken his chances.

My anxiety is mounting now. How do the NHS get away with such sloppy practices?

What’s more, I still don’t know how much of me is Viking and where my passion for cheese comes from?

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