As I wait to take my egg donor “course” at Columbia tomorrow, I’m suddenly stricken with panic. Now is the time to face the STD and genetic screening panel. So, STD tests are old hat. I’ve taken one almost every year since I turned 18 (wow, 10 years of tests…) but, true confession, the HIV/AIDS test always makes my heart flutter because… what if? Thankfully all of those have quickly come back negative, but still, a little piece of me is always nervous to get those results.
The behemoth that is the genetic screening panel is upon me, and it’s like the HIV test times 1,000. And of course, I’m the type who incessantly researches that sort of thing, so I looked up the more common types of panels. The Universal Genetic Test, more commonly known as Counsyl, is likely similar to the panel that Columbia will administer. After clicking around on their website, I noticed a tab labeled “Minorities at Greatest Risk.” Obviously I clicked on it, and to my surprise, found Caucasian listed. I say “my surprise” because when we, in America, are discussing race, “white” is usually not considered a minority. Even the label on the page doesn’t lend itself to the colloquial definition of minority; “One Test for One Billion People,” it proclaims. So anyway, I’m like… crap. Because I’m sure that “One Billion People” can harbor a ton of genetic variations, all of which, in my head, I’m suddenly harboring as a carrier. And sure enough, Italian and Irish are listed in the first paragraph as being especially prone to some more dramatic and awful genetic disorders. Double crap.
Clicking around the site isn’t helping me feel any better. What if I’m a carrier for SMA, or PKU? Or what have you? Do I really want to know? I mean, yeah, of course I do, because if I someday want to have my own kids, I think it’s better to know than to not know. But at the same time, isn’t ignorance bliss? Do I want to know and then maybe decide not to have children because it would be irresponsible based on the results of this genetic test? I know this doesn’t seem terribly dramatic to those of you reading, but I’ve sort of always pictured myself having kids, even if I’m not 100% certain that I will. So the idea that it could no longer be a possibility is jarring to my world-view.
As I think about this possibility, I’m also struck by the comforting (but probably totally wrong) idea that… PUNNET SQUARES. XY would be more likely to demonstrate X linked genetic variations and my dad doesn’t, as far as I know, have anything genetically weird going on (out of 5, we’re a generally healthy bunch). So, I’m genetically female, and I may have a normal X gene masking an X variation, but the Italian and Polish genetic disorders are less likely to show up because they’d have to have come from my dad, who, as I just said, appears to be genetically “normal…”
And I fully realize that I’m using 8th grade biology to set my frantic mind at ease. But I don’t need to be corrected at the moment because it’s the thing that is making me feel ok about opening Pandora’s box.
I’ll have another post about the class tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Disclaimer: It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write a post about the egg donation process, and I’d like to take a moment to remind you that I am not an expert on egg donation. I am merely documenting my experience with it as it is happening. If you would like more information about egg donation, please seek out information appropriate to your state (NYS information can be found here) or contact a major hospital with a fertility specialist in your area. Thanks for reading, and good luck!