This week’s writing challenge was interesting to me just based on the title “DNA Analysis.”
I remember first learning about DNA in detail in grade 10 biology. I am sure I did cover the stuff before, but this was around when the human genome project was just coming out with their successful mapping of human DNA and such and it was HUGE to a geek like me. It is crazy how far we have come since then. I mean, just today I was helping to prescribe a drug that targets a certain genetic mutation on lung cancer cells to a person who would otherwise have almost no really useful treatment for the cancer.
Back to the challenge… The folks at the daily post want folks to write about the bits and pieces that make you you and use them as a springboard for a bigger point. The basic concept is simple, but the whole package is a bit intense.
That brings me back to grade 10 biology. I loved biology. Cells are fascinating things. That is when I learned something fascinating… Cancer can be genetic, so can autoimmune diseases and a million other things.
That is when I realized that things weren’t so simple. I got the whole nature versus nurture thing and felt pretty strongly that it took a mix of these to put together a person. But, I grasped at that point that maybe I was doomed to be more like some of my family members in ways that I didn’t want.
I wasn’t just in any biology class. I was far to geeky for that. I was in the International Baccalaureate program and I was one of the top in my class. Because that is how I rolled.
Organized, driven to a fault, keen.
If you ask my parents, heck, if you asked most of my family, I was and still am my Aunt Doreen incarnate. Seriously, I even look like her to this day (even though I also suspiciously look just like both of my parents).
She died when I was 8 from lymphoma (that may or may not have developed from complications from medications she took for her Lupus) and she was like another parent to me.
Sure, we have our differences. I am fortunate to be healthier, for one. Secondly, I am nowhere near as outgoing and social as she was. She was a big party planner and loved the sorts of events with bunches of people that I hate. I clearly took after and/or learned those behaviours from my Dad on that end.
But, in so many ways, I am very much like her.
And I like that. Because I liked her. And most of my similar traits are useful to have.
Then came grade 10 biology.
I share DNA with her.
I mean, I knew that before, obviously, she is my Dad’s sister. One doesn’t tend to exist as a spitting image of someone to whom they have no relation.
But, with similar genetics, even if it is somewhere under a half of my DNA, and all of those similar traits, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would run into the same problems. Was I destined to develop an autoimmune disease? Am I just one hit away from developing a malignancy?
My similar anal-retentive traits led me to scour the internet for information.
Just like when we would do “fun projects” when we would hang out when I was a little kid (minus the internet, instead we had magazines, encyclopedias and library books).
I am pretty sure I am the only 15 year old who learned about tumor hit loci, and genetic hypothesis around lupus. I even did a project on it for the class.
Of course, I know now that having a second degree relative with these problems is not that big of a risk factor. But, at 15 and as an otherwise similar person, this was kind of concerning.
So yes, I know nature plays at least some role in my similarities. My DNA plays a role in my appearance, my capacity for learning and such.
But really, my DNA does not make me organized, nor does it make me love learning or give me my obsessive compulsive personality. That came from spending days doing “fun projects,” learning how to color code files and singing along with the radio with my. Just like my dislike for public displays of affection and sense of humor can be blamed on my Dad or how I am “too nice” like my Mom.
And yet, I can be so much like someone I only knew just over 1/4 of my life.
DNA is important, but science has shown it isn’t everything. Sometimes it takes an exposure, for instance radiation exposure to cause damage enough to provoke an illness. I guess, it didn’t take a whole lot for me to be like my Aunt.
That is just how I happen to be programmed.