Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My 23andMe DNA Test Results and Other Junk


I’ve got so many projects started that I’m beginning to question what’s going on inside my head. I have a baby sweater in the works, two books part way read, an oil painting in the early stages and I’ve spent time working in my walk-in closet where I’ve barely made a dent---my goal is to try every single thing on, then be ruthless about the piles I sort the items to. I’ve also got some blog entries and a few poems in rough drafts. And then there’s the joyful day I spent poking around the 23andMe website looking at my DNA test results. I’ve got more Neanderthal gene “variants” than 70% of the 23andMe customers…oh, my! 23andMe has a forum for people to compare tests, ask questions and generally play around like people do on forums. I love forums and I found a thread about having a lot of Neanderthal genes where people were joking around about how they have to trim the hair on their toes or put Band-Aids on their knuckles from dragging them around. One woman confessed that once a month she wants to tear her husband’s arms off and suck the marrow out of his bones and now she knows why. All jokes aside, Neanderthal variants supposedly come into play with allergies and infertility issues which has my name written all over them.

Since my husband died six years ago this month, January’s have sent me into a woe-is-me, I’m a lonely widow’s tail spin. But I’m not depressed this year and I don’t feel lonely although I’m beginning to wonder if I’m subconsciously trying too hard to keep the boogieman at bay and that explains why I’m hopping from one project/task to another. Or maybe I just jumped into the deep end of the New Year’s Resolution pool and got myself overwhelmed like a kid in a candy store who can’t make up his mind what to buy with his birthday money. 

The baby sweater is easy to figure out. Both my niece’s need a bigger sweater for their gramma drawers at their cottages and I needed an excuse to evict the dog from the La-Z-Boy in the living room where he sits a hundred times more often than I do. I spend way too much time in the kitchen playing on the computer and I wanted to change that. I’ve been on a writing binge to beat all binges lately but I’m not creating any particularly interesting. I mean who really cares that I wrote about dumping a whole box of oatmeal all over the floor and I actually considered putting it back in the box to cook later? In case anyone DOES care, I did a quick calculation on how long it had been since my cleaner was at the house and I decided no amount of microwave heat was hot enough to kill twenty-five days of floor germs and there was no way I could have gotten the oatmeal back in the box under the ten second Oreo rule.

My 23andMe DNA test for health risks came back with no gene markers showing for the 54 health issues and diseases they tested for including Alzheimer’s, Macular Degeneration, breast cancer, Celiac Disease, Parkinson’s and a bunch of stuff I've never heard of and was written using a medical jargon I didn’t understand. I’d study that vocabulary and the links they provided if the 54 tests had shown some variants, but I’m happy not to have to take on that homework. On the fun side is trying to figure out how a little spit in a tube could tell them that I’m likely to consume more caffeine than the average duck in the gene pool, that I don’t sleep deep, am likely to tolerate lactose, am genetically predisposed to weigh more than average and I move around in my sleep…ALL TRUE! 

Even funnier is the fact that the test report included 27 silly but accurate traits. For example: I don’t have dimples but have “attached” shaped earlobes. They told me what hair texture I have, my toe length ratio, my finger length ratio, my eye color, the fact that I likely am not able to match a musical pitch, that I was born with lots of hair, that I don’t like cilantro and mosquitos love me, and that I prefer sweet over salty. The weirdest trait listed is they said I have dry, flaky earwax instead of wet earwax. “…the same genetic variant in the ABCC11 gene that determines the dry earwax type is also linked to lower levels of body odor.” Who knew! Isn’t that crazy. Reading my DNA results was all fun and games, considering I didn’t have any health risks on the 54 diseases and conditions pages. I was slightly worried about having the genetic marker for Alzheimer’s but I can quit wondering if my brain cells will run out of its hour glass long before I die. Yippie-Yi-Yo!

A few days before getting my test results I saw the movie, My Sister’s Keeper and if you read the book you’ll know it’s about a couple who had a daughter with leukemia who conceived another baby whose embryo was specifically picked to be a perfect donor match to her older sister. This was a fiction story that brings up the moral issue of editing human embryos but last November a Chinese scientist claimed he just did that with two babies. Until I got my DNA results back I didn’t realize how gene specific that could actually get. These babies in embryo form had their genes edited to “disable CCR5, a gene involved in allowing HIV to invade cells, which is how a virus infects a host.” Right or wrong a brave new world of medical possibilities is upon us. ©

28 comments:

  1. I have thought about doing one of these tests. Sounds interesting. Did it also go over your heritage and race results?
    Also, if you can answer, was there any particular reason you picked this company?

    I know some people here were upset that this man in China had done this. But to me being able to eliminate a bad gene for a disease would be wonderful. I wonder if it’s a religious thing here?

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    1. Yes, I did the heritage test too. They are separate with 23andMe and you can do one or both, depending on how much you're willing to pay. I also did the heritage one with Ancestry.com the Christmas before last. They don't do the health test. Of the two companies I think 23andMe has better a better website and tools for understanding your tests afterward. And they were more detailed. For example, both companies said I had a 1% African heritage but 23andMe pinpointed it to coming from my maternal side which made sense because her family had been here since the Mayflower. With 23andMe you can also get a color book of your heritage printed.

      The whole medical community was outraged about the man in China. I guess the fear is that scientists are able to create a true designer baby Frankenstein-ish style and they shouldn't be experimenting with human life in embryo form. I don't know if religion enters into the debate---I haven't read a lot about this issue---but I'll bet it does. Gene therapy, though, has got to be the end result and eliminating embryos that have certain deceases is sure to come up. If the technology is there, you can't put that back in the box in my opinion.

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  2. Wow! You really embraced your Crafty Side & Resolutions, and January is only 9 days old. But I, too, started a new knitting project and the truck from the Vietnam Vets Administration just picked up a donation off my front porch, so...I get it.

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    1. I give me until Valintine's Day before I start slipping on my Resolutions. I also resolved to bake once a week and so far I've been doing that too.

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  3. Wow you sure got a lot of info from 23andme. I did my ancestry on ancestry.com which was so awesome to read and see the migration of my "family" but won't do the 23andme. For me it's like everyone wanting me to see if I had the Brca gene due to my mom dying of breast cancer. I don't want to know. If I knew every time I have a twinge of any kind I would think I had breast cancer and obsess. I don't need that. I'd love to know all the other stuff though. It's so fascinating Jean.
    As for your closet, I did just that, tried it all on. Took longer but man I love walking in my closet now.

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    1. I think shopping for new clothes would/will be easier if I start with a closet that's been purged. I've also lost five pound so far this year and that makes it hard to let go of the clothing that is too small in the closet. The closet is going to be a thorn in my foot.

      I did the Ancestry.com in 2017 but other than the first time I looked at the information online I haven't been able to access it every since which is one of the reasons why I wanted to do it again...and 23andMe had an awesome sale. First thing I did was order the hardcover book.

      I hear you on not wanting to know if you have a gene for a particular health issue. I'm not in that camp of thinking but you are in the majority...only ten and one want to know, I read. It also doesn't make sense for someone with no children (you and me) to know what genes they have that can be passed down. It was still very interesting and I'm glad I did it. Of course, if it had turned out differently I might not be singing this tune.

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  4. "I’ve been on a writing binge to beat all binges lately but I’m not creating any particularly interesting."
    I beg to differ. I find your posts incredibly interesting. You could type out the phone book (is there such a thing anymore, though?) and find a way to make it interesting.
    Oh, and thanks for the Neanderthal information (she says with a sigh, while gazing at her hairy toes).
    Happy 2019!

    Deb

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    1. I guess it's called 'spin.' I live such a boring life that I have to find a way to share my days that wouldn't put people to sleep.

      When I first saw that 70% more Neanderthal genes all the other 23andMe customers I didn't know what to think, I was shocked. But then I imagined that might explain how I believe Levi and I can "read" each other's minds and why I can take an instant like or dislike to a person I just met. LOL

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  5. I have been curious about the genetic testing kits but really don't want to know if I have probable diseases lurking in my future. I figure at my age, I probably all ready have and know about them. I read recently that Neanderthal is not a bad trait to have but can be an actual asset.

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    1. I read that too, and the more people who take the DNA and (more importantly) agree to share the results the more searchers the they'll be able to understand things like blood clotting rates and dry skin---Neanderthal genes effects both. I haven't agreed to allow to release my tests but I may in the future. The genetic studies underway are amazing.

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  6. You are a busy lady! Levi should get you a laptop so you can be in whichever room you want!!

    To do your closet, watch Marie Kondo on Netflix .... I did that a couple years ago when I moved in ... and just did it again. If I don’t LOVE an item or how it makes me feel ... Hello Goodwill!

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  7. I have a good laptop but I much prefer the giant screen and curved keyboard of my desktop.

    A friend on Facebook was talking Marie Kondo today, but I don't have Netflix. I don't have outfits I either love or don't. I have things that fit or don't. I don't fall in love with clothing like some people do...at least not since the '70s. I just cleaned a four foot section of my closet...took out 18 hangers of tops that were too small and left 38 that still fit. Thirteen more feet of hangers to sort. I've already sorted my underwear and shoe shelves. Then I have 17 feet of high shelves that are more household goods---easy and quick sorting.

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    1. P.S. What I can't believe is that all my husband's clothes used to share this closet and I sure managed to fill it up since he passed.

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    2. She is also on YouTube. 38 tops? I'm soooooo downsized in the clothing area. If I didn't wear it this summer, it's in the container for Goodwill. I love that I can pick any bra or pair of undies and KNOW they fit perfectly and I feel good wearing them. It's still a work in progress. For some reason son in law was cleaning out bathrooms today ... I had to ask him if he was watching her show!!!

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    3. Okay, I found her on YouTube and watched her closet purging segment. There is no way on God's green acres that her method will work for me. The first time I'd pick up something and ask it when I'd ever wear it again I'd answer, "The next time I gain or loss ten pounds again." and back it would go in the closet. The best I'm aiming for is two sizes, not three in the closet when I end up and hopefully purging all the worn out stuff I wear around the house.

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  8. I've got you beat in the Neanderthal variant department. According to 23andMe I have more of them than 81% of their customers. It's funny because the older I've become, the less body hair I seem to have. Except for the occasional errant chin hair that pops up.

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    1. Wow, 81% is pretty high. I'm not a hairy person either, never have been except on my head. I still have to have my hair thinned every month at my age. The Neanderthal variant is a fun thing to brag about, isn't it. At least I find it funny and fun.

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  9. I'm on a cleaning, clutter busting binge! I'd have your closet done in no time. Easier to do for someone else....nothing sparks joy (Marie Kondo) -- or memories. LOL I've got the trunk loaded with more donations to the local charity thrift shop. I think I keep them in business. I keep thinking I'm going to run out of stuff since my goal is to pare down to essentials (or at least those things I actually use and wear more than occasionally).

    You've prompted me to go back and study my 23 and Me results. I did the test, got there result, read it over quickly, but never dove very deeply into it all. Same with Ancestry. I wanted them to tell me the very city or county my ancestors were from -- I just got countries. I didn't do the super scary, behind the wall, health part of 23 and Me -- scaredy cat about finding out bad news. My health anxiety issues would be in full freak out mode. On the other hand I might find out I have nothing to worry about.... But the other stuff was fun.

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    1. You're afraid of the health risk DNA test and I'm afraid of the closet purging. LOL I just don't get how you know you'll be able to buy something new in a color or style you like if you get rid of so much in your closet. I just looked at my last purging-the-closet post and it was written in 2014. Nothing much has changed in there since the photos I posted back then. What is your goal as to the number or outfits or shoes or whatever? We have to have seasons in our closets here in Michigan that I doubt you need there. And I layer like crazy...sometimes three layers. I hate this closet discussion here in the comments. It makes me feel like such a stubborn failure and I've only got a forth of the closet done.

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  10. I find all this fascinating. I did my DNA with Ancestry and it's interesting but not medically complex like yours. Which may or may not be a good thing. Sometimes you don't want to know. I could have used a little Neanderthal when I was working, that's for sure! My favorite show, "Finding Your Roots," started a new season on Tuesday. That started my whole genealogical journey!

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    1. I love that show. I started doing genealogy when I was still in my early teens. Or I should say my mom was doing genealogy and I tagged along. Back in those days it involved looking at microfiche and going to courthouse buildings.

      Ancestry is good for building family trees and connecting with others. I don't know if 23andMe has that feature because I'd already done mine so I didn't explore that part of 23andMe.

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  11. I spent hours and days looking over everything after I got my 23andme test results back. Since, I have filled out their health surveys and find I have no precursors for any "bad" diseases. Although most days I feel like Alzheimer's is already invading my brain.

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    1. Their website is awesome for poking around. I didn't do the health survey but I might go back and do it now that I understand the research mission of 23andMe. I know that "brain invasion" feeling well.

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  12. Oh, by the way, I have Neanderthal variants too. I think that means we have ancestor's that came from the Neander Valley in Germany--although--I do have a large head, wide forehead and big ears.

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    1. Neanderthals---as I understand it---is more than just being from a certain valley in Germany although that's true. They are an extinct subspecies of human. I guess we come for really, really OLD stock. LOL

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  13. So sorry Jean. I've been very busy lately with the cruise. Things haven't been the easiest this time. I'll spend more time with your next blog. Hopefully I'll be more at ease this time. See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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