Can A Genetic Test Assure A Good Marriage?
I re-read his email several times. "I cannot marry you unless you agree to take a genetic test that will determine whether you will get Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease, just like your mom." My eyes refused to believe what I was reading. I had been with him for two years. Since day 1, He knew that my mom had contracted AD at 42 and died at 49.
Tears of rage streamed down my face. I howled, deep in pain. I was not only betrayed, but also paralysed by fear. I hadn’t thought about the genetic implications of my mother’s Alzheimer’s. I was so busy dealing with the trauma of being a mother to my mother and then losing her, that I forgot I could be next in line.
Alzheimer’s disease has affected five members of my family - My maternal grandmother, her sister, my mom and now my mom’s brother. My mom got it the earliest. I was sure I didn’t want to take the test and know if I had the gene mutation! It would be like sitting on a time bomb. I was 28. If I had to get AD exactly at the age mom did, I had only 14 years to live.
I decided to give up on him. It was then that my dad asked me, “Were you scared when mom was beginning to show those signs?” I said, “Hell yea!” Dad simply said, “And you want him to not be scared, just be there for you. Not worry about the unknown. Not worry about losing you.” Dad had hit home.
I knew I had to help my boyfriend overcome his fear and learn about AD. I told him to assume that I would get AD in my 40s. But I would also educate him; help him recognize the signs, train him on whom to ask for help – but would he be willing to give me the happiest 14 years of my life, till then?
He cried and said, “Yes.”
The 21st century is going to see a sharp rise in the incidence of Dementias. A genetic test tells you whether you are at risk, but it cannot tell you whether you will get it for sure or when.
It is important for us as a generation to have our values in the right place. Life is about right now. Not tomorrow. Teach love. Not fear.