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."