My Wife’s Family Is Huntington’s Strong
Huntington’s is a strange and deadly disease.
It’s not like cancer. Only 5-10% of cancer is hereditary, and what’s passed down is the abnormal gene that can lead to cancer, not the cancer itself.
It’s not like heart disease. Certain risk factors, such as high cholesterol, can be passed down from parents, but inheriting these doesn’t mean you will die of heart disease.
Knowing about a family history of cancer or heart disease can help with prevention and early diagnosis so that, in the end, it doesn’t kill you.
That’s not so with Huntington’s disease. If it runs in your family, you have to accept the unavoidable truth that you may have it and may have unknowingly passed it down to your children.
It runs in my wife’s family. Jill’s father had it, which means his father had it, as his father’s side carried the gene. It means that his brothers and sisters had a 50% chance of being gene-positive. It means that Jill and all of her cousins could be gene-positive, too.
I never realized how much Huntington’s affected Jill’s family until I accompanied her to the neurologist for the first time. One of the questions was, “Who in your family was diagnosed with Huntington’s?”
She started naming family members. Her great-aunts and -uncles. Her father’s siblings. Her cousins.
At that moment, I realized that no one in her family could avoid Huntington’s disease. There was no way to prevent it from attacking their minds and bodies. They all fall into one of two categories: the ones who inherited the gene, and the ones who feel some level of guilt because they did not.
After leaving the doctor’s office, Jill and I talked about how Huntington’s disease has essentially hurt every person in her family. It has robbed her loved ones of time, peace of mind, and the belief that they will get older and wiser. It has robbed them of the belief that they can protect their children from the same fate.
It all sounds so sad — so much so that most people would crumble under the weight of it all. Most people would have a hard time getting out of bed. But not Jill’s family; they are remarkable.
They all grew up witnessing how Huntington’s affected the generation before them. They saw how their relatives suffered and then died before their time, but they continue to get out of bed every morning. They have jobs and families and continue to love life.
Jill’s family is the strongest group of people I have ever met. They tell Huntington’s disease every day that they won’t let it destroy their lives, even though one day they will possibly die from it.
They are Huntington’s strong.
Huntington’s is a weird disease, but I hope that one day, like cancer and heart disease, they will be able to take medication for it so that it either goes into remission or can be managed, allowing those afflicted to live relatively healthily for many years.
Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.