GENES ARE NOT ENOUGH

Two years ago, I underwent Personal Genome Testing out of fear of cancer and other horrendous illnesses one can only imagine. Considering I had experienced the gruesome details of stroke and lung cancer that had affected Bob, and ultimately took his brain and then his life - my fears were legitimate.  I believed DNA testing would give me an edge, an inside look at the genetic motherlode I had inherited from my parents. I always say, in the Body Beautiful Body Healthy formula, that 10% of how we look and feel is due to the genetics delivered to us by our parents. Might as well know what that looks like.   Personal Genome Testing is not to be taken lightly. When you decide to provide a saliva sample for that purpose, you must first meet with a psychologist and genetic counsellor, both of whom guide you through what you may discover, good or bad, at the end of the process. I felt confident on February 20, 2013, that I was ready to undergo the test and I did.   I am ashamed to admit however, that until yesterday, March 19th, 2015, l had let those results remain hidden in the vault of someone else’s computer for two years. I had refused invitations from the clinic to “complete the experience by learning your results.” What was keeping me from knowing?? To put it simply, I was terrified! There had already been so much heartbreak in these past 4 years of my life, I didn't think my head and my heart, nor my family, could handle any more. What if the news was bad? What if I would learn that I was suffering a fatal disease? What if I had cancer? Any of these were possible and I had convinced myself that I probably was suffering from at least one, because of the monumental stress I had been living with. Stress is a HUGE killing factor. OMG! What was I thinking??   Kilometre by kilometre however, I made my way from the relative safety of my home, down the GTA highways, to the clinic yesterday, signed in at the administrative desk and found myself waiting, lulled into numbness by the accompanying clock, in a sleek medical waiting lounge. Within minutes (that felt like hours) I was called in to a private office, accompanied by two lab coated physicians, who sat smiling at me across an official looking desk while stroking the flashy blue cover of my results, which came in a binder. A very thick binder.   “Oh dear!” I thought to myself. “That’s a lot of results out of one tiny test tube of spit.”   Soon the academically sonorous voices of the doctors were spilling out information about markers, genotypes, myocardial infarction, Lupus, HLA genes and more. I found my eyes darting to the score on the far right of every page. A score that could be “Increased Risk, Above Average Risk, High Risk or Average Risk.” I could also be a “Slow or Fast Metabolizer,” which is relevant to pharmaceuticals, or I could be a “Carrier or not.”   I paid particular attention to things like Alzheimer’s disease, the cancers and heart categories, my heart pounding all the while. I had broken out in a full sweat at the end of the reading.   “Well! Was I going to die?” I heard my thoughts roaring around in my brain and hoped I hadn’t betrayed my fear by speaking out loud.   “You idiot! Of course you are going to die!” the smarter side of me chimed in. “Everyone has to die!”   “But of what? Will it be horrible? Will I suffer?” These thoughts could not be tamped down. I began wondering when I would learn my fate, because to get an inside look at your genetics is a lot like knowing your own fate, at least from the health point of view. It felt slightly odd to comprehend that I was coming closer to learning what that fate might be. A few years ago, an energy healer I had gone to predicted that I would live a good, long life and when I died it would be quick.   “Oh Lord!” Patiently the doctors spelled out my long suffering details, as if in a Peanuts® cartoon, with slow and methodical language clearly meant for someone with not yet fully formed language comprehension, like those learning their genetic fates (ME!) or perhaps kindergarteners. If you were to ask me what I thought I would die of, I might say stupidity or a heart attack. I would say that because my father had had heart disease all his life and my elder sister recently had a stent put in. Naturally, my ticker would deliver the kicker. And in some ways I was right.   All categories of my genetic testing came back as Average Risk. All but Coronary Artery Disease where I obviously was at a higher risk, thanks to my genetics. However, and this is a big however, out of all the health conditions tested - there were 26 - 100% of them could be positively affected by lifestyle.   Well right there I got the validation of a lifetime. My efforts for the last 15 years (and counting, not going to go yet!) in teaching about Eating Clean and exercising and performing that alchemy on myself, were not in vain. Here was proof positive that what we eat, whether or not we exercise, smoke, drink or practice risky behaviours, get enough sleep and practice mindfulness - all of these combine to offset the potential of disease in us, whether or not we inherit the genes!   I sat back in my chair, blowing out a puff of relief, feeling slightly dazed. This is fantastic I thought. Then I had a doubt. Is it? Better check to make sure.   “So doctor, am I right in thinking the results of my Personal Genome Testing are pretty good?” I waited for the reply.   “It may surprise you to know that most people, after completing this test, have at least 5 to 6 health conditions marked off with scores of “Increased or High Risk. Furthermore, Ms. Kennedy, you do not take any medications nor engage in risky behaviour. You are remarkably healthy,” pronounced Doctor #1.   “Yes, excellent!” pronounced Dr. #2.   I felt giddy. Want to know which health condition score I was happiest about? Obesity. Because I follow the Eat Clean lifestyle and train hard, I am no longer at risk for being obese. I was once obese - now I’m not. My God! I had done it.   In a blur I went to retrieve my car, parked beneath the clinic. The kind man who drove it up for me, passed me the keys and asked me how it went. He knew my errand, as I had to sign in when I parked. I think my eyes gave away my happy results but I told him I had done well. He shook my hand and said, “That’s amazing for you. Many people come down here to get their cars after their tests, shouting and swearing, even crying. We see it all. People are very sad when their health fails them.” He chuckled and handed me the keys.   I didn’t need any more proof. I don’t think you do either. I will take care of myself and thus my health. I will Eat Clean. I will learn to manage stress through exercise, acupuncture and yoga. I will practice mindfulness and gratitude every day. It’s a choice. Not a chance. It’s a choice I make every day and I love it.   Let’s commit to taking this journey together. Let’s strengthen our resolve to Eat Clean, to exercise and to stick together.   Remember, I’m always listening. Tosca   PS. I also commit to taking good care of my heart and blood vessels. I promise.