19 June 2006

A Family Heritage That's Hard to Stomach

In 1930 [census], Golda Hitchcock Bradfield lived with her carpenter husband and five children in their rented home on a tree-lined street in downtown Emporia, Kansas. Three more children would be born in the next five years. In the coming decades, the family would learn that Golda had passed on a deadly inheritance.

Golda died of a rare stomach cancer at age 64. Of her eight children, seven would have the gene that makes the disease almost inevitable. Six of the kids died of it, most in their 40s or 50s.

The next generation -- Golda's grandchildren -- watched helplessly as the older generation died too young and wondered what the future held for them. With the advent of a genetic test for the disease -- and the death from stomach cancer of one of that generation -- the remaining cousins were tested. Eleven of them were found to be at risk. Each of them had to decide whether or not to accept the only available option -- to have their stomachs removed.

A drastic step but eventually they all took that option. "We're all going to die of something," Bill Bradford said, "but I know I won't die of stomach cancer."


Anonymous said...

Headline News reported that an estimated 7,000 patients in hospitals die every year due to medication complications.

I wonder how many of those cousins actually made it out of the hospital!

Questors said...

They all did.

7,000 seems like a small number to me. I'd take my chances.