Several Things My DNA Results Revealed Besides My Ethnic Background

When approaching the observance of Black History Month in recent years, I’ve opted to focus more on the obscure and the provocative. Most people who attended public school in the United States at one point in their lives or another knows that Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape to New England and Canada, but I highly doubt that many know that she is also an honored (though questionably compensated) war hero.

Another way that I’ve been celebrating the quieter moments in black history is by looking into my only family history. I may not be the great-grandniece of an NAACP founder or kin to NBA royalty, but every bloodline is unique as the next and it makes us all who we are. Stories like that of Henrietta Lacks are the truest testament to this. Embracing and cherishing your eccentricity and singularity is truly an act of self-love.

And what better way to embrace your own uniqueness than to mail your spit off to a DNA testing company? It should be no secret now that with the help of modern science and technology, anyone can learn about where they come from. T’Challa has the right idea.

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I opted for a DNA test that looked at everything from ethnicity to disease variants. I had always been interested in learning more about my ethnic background, particularly my African and Native American ancestry, and medical history. My results were very surprising and I ended up learning more about myself than I expected.

Music is in my blood

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According to my DNA results, I have a 50/50 chance of being able to “match musical pitch”. 50/50 might seem like too neutral of a stat, but lucky for me, I’ve got historical proof to back it up. 

Guess whose maternal grandfather is the lead singer.

My family is no more Motown royalty than they are NBA royalty, but I still, he’s my grandpa, not yours.

“Big-boned” and sickle cell free

The good news is, based on my genetics, I’m not at risk of having it. The bad news is that people of African descent are most likely to suffer from the disease.

“Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder characterized by anemia, episodes of pain, and frequent infections. A person must have two HbS variants in the HBB gene in order to have this condition.” – 23andme

Although I’m not at risk of sickle cell, I am prone to naturally weigh nearly 10% more than clinically suggested for someone my height.

Shocking.

This undoubtedly means that I have to work harder than the “average” (whatever that means) person to stay in shape. But, it also means that “in shape” might look different for me than what it looks like for you. And that is ok because science says so. I am okay because I am me.

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And furthermore, the way I see it, women who look like me had to look good, women my grands and great-grands didn’t have trouble finding husbands.

The brilliant moral of this story is that I’m attractive, I’m black, I’m not tone deaf and there is absolutely no one else quite like me.

Happy Black History Month.

 

 *Featured image of Henrietta Lacks is from Medical Daily via Wikimedia.


 

downloadJiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.

Realness of Illness #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means one can expect issues and organizations surrounding the disease to take a front seat in terms of publicity this month. A couple days ago folks celebrated  #NoBraDay, in which I did not participate. A number of people opposed to the campaign/holiday for fairly sensible reasons, however my reason for opting out was simply a matter of physiology.

Today, I would like to call attention to other illnesses that have been more or less making waves as of late. Here are 5 diseases causing as much buzz as breast cancer:

#5 Epilepsy

I heard the term ‘epilepsy’ and ‘epileptic’ before, but I received my crash course on the disorder after my sister suffered a violent seizure in the middle of the night which scared the beans out of me and landed her in the hospital. According to the CDC, less than 2% of Americans suffer from epilepsy, however there are other more common conditions, such as stroke or severe head injury, that can lead to one having the disorder.

Epilepsy doesn’t get as much publicity as breast cancer and I can’t think at the top of my head of too many celebrities going on Ellen discussing it. Sadly, my last memory of hearing of epilepsy in the media was in the police footage of an infamous arrest that’s also gained some media attention.

#4 MRSA

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Photo by Cristian Baron

I remember there being a big MRSA scare when I was in high school. Made gym class a bit more awkward than it already had been. The slightest of itches warranted the DEEPEST of prayers. Good thing I was in Catholic school [insert comedy drum fill].

It looks like Lamar Odom isn’t the only athlete who’s landed himself in the hospital this week. Daniel Fells, New York Giants tight end, has been in ICU for almost a week and may leave the hospital without a foot due to his diagnosis of the infection. This recent case of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is calling attention to athlete’s vulnerability, but also just how easily anyone person can be infected no matter how clean and careful you may think you are.

#3 Lupus

In my twenties, I’ve been running into more and more women with lupus. This makes sense, since most people with lupus are women of color between the ages of 15 and 44. It was revealed that former Disney queen, Selena Gomez, was diagnosed with lupus after it was rumored that she had gone into chemotherapy.

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PSA, since we’re on the subject, lupus is an autoimmune disease, while cancer is the growth and spread of abnormal tissue. You’re welcome.

Other celebrities with the disease include: Lady Gaga, Toni Braxton and Michael Jackson.

#2 Gun Violence???

According University of Illinois Chicago’s Dr. Gary Slutkin, gun violence is an illness that is preventable. For more than a decade the epidemiologist has been researching and spread the message of a “cure for violence”. Given the constant heated debates surrounding the topic of gun control in the US, I think this interesting perspective on violence and gun use could either act as an objective breath of fresh air or the idea could just recycled be over and over for click-worthy headlines. Hey, I was successfully baited.

Regardless of your politics, I think most can agree that violence in general has surpassed ridiculous levels on the global scale of violent occurrences.

#1 Ebola

Oh, no! I didn’t forget. But I won’t hold it against you if you did. Just at the beginning of the “social activism through hashtagging” exploded into normality, I made the mistake once of posting the status “is Ebola still a thing?” to be fascetious. Bad idea. But I digress.

Just last year, the world, or at least US news outlets, were in a panic for fear of a spread of the Ebola virus. The good news? No new cases have been reported in any of the three countries affected the most by the virus as of last week!

It is still suggested that anyone leaving that area of Africa, particularly Liberia, should get a medical examination and be on the alert for any sign of symptoms. Ebola makes #1 on this list because it’s “still a thing” and if a case is ever reported again in the US, I am convinced that people will just melt. Nope. They are going to melt.

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Jiell Richardson is a web designer/developer, fat yogi padawan, and blogger based in Washington, DC, USA.