“Alright, let’s beat them with a difference of 10 points”, I told my partner at a routine weekend badminton game as I bent down to pick up my racquet. As I went down, a rush of pain ran through my back and I could never get up. I slept on the badminton court for 15 minutes and then somehow reached home. To cut a long story short, I was diagnosed with a disc bulge in the lumbar region and was hospitalized.
Post the incident, I was not able to get up due to severe pain for three long days. And I mean it when I say ‘long’. I had severe pain for all those days and beyond. Initially, I was cursing the pain explicitly. When you have nothing to do for three days except lying down, your brain starts functioning efficiently.
I realized one day that pain, like fever, is not a disorder, but a defense mechanism. It is a way my body tells me that I have exerted myself too much and I need rest. Maybe, if I hadn’t experienced the pain, I would have continued playing and hurt my disc further. As the bulged disc left an impression on the nerve endings, I felt that pain and it was an indication for me to stop right there and not expose the disc to further damage.
It happens many times in life that we tend to curse the factors that alerted us to the danger. I remember cursing Star Sports when India lost the cricket match. I remember cursing the post man for carrying sad news in the good old days. Carrying it on to the most recent incident, I cursed the pain even if it saved the injury from worsening.
On similar lines, is it fair to blame a genetic mutation for cancer? What do you think? Which question describes this conundrum more aptly?
Do my genes cause hereditary cancer?
Do genes indicate a higher risk of suffering from cancer in the future?
I prefer the latter. If there are genes that pass on the message to us that there is a higher probability of getting cancer in the future, I will definitely not curse the genes but expend all my energy towards working on the corrective measures, like leading a healthier lifestyle and (in some cases preventive surgery is also available). Who knows, that healthier lifestyle might even save me from some of the other dreaded conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, even if I don’t suffer from cancer later on (which is also possible, as carrying a mutation in a hereditary cancer risk gene does not mean cancer is inevitable!).
In fact, taking a step back, would I even be open to receiving this message from my genes? Definitely, yes! Many people hesitate to take a hereditary cancer test which can reveal a lot of information on the probability of getting cancer just by studying the genes. If so much information is hidden in these tiny genes, why not explore it and get the message our genes are dying to tell us?
Being open to genetic information is the first step and if the genes are trying to convey something important, please ‘DON’T BLAME YOUR GENES’, take preventive and remedial action!