Category Archives: Glaucoma

Playing Genetic Russian roulette – my thoughts on Angelina Jolie’s recent surgery

I read with interest this week Angelina Joile-Pitts, Diary of a surgery in the New York post: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/24/opinion/angelina-jolie-pitt-diary-of-a-surgery.htmlI have to admit I really admired her decision to have both a double masectomy and now having her ovaries removed. My mum had  breast cancer and metastases in her spine while she was in her mid-forties, it’s terrible and frightening seeing someone you love essentially fighting for their life by having surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Luckily my mum is now well and healthy, but Angelina’s mother was not so lucky and obviously her loss influenced her decision.

In the article she wrote, Angelina mentions that she lost mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer, so genetic risk has played a big part in her decision. Which started me thinking about genes and the risk we take when we have children. I was born with Congenital glaucoma, a genetic birth defect, which can lead to blindness if not treated. I lost most of the sight in my left eye, and required surgery as a baby to save the sight in my good right eye. Luckily I see perfectly well with my right eye, so I lead a “normal’ life.  When the time came to have children we needed to have genetic counselling. Because both my sister and I have Glaucoma there was a risk it would be passed onto any children we have, so it was a big decision to weigh up.  My husband and I decided we wanted to have children, but the eye medication I used in my good eye could cause birth defects, so I needed to stop taking the medication if we were going to try to get pregnant. Unfortunately be without the medication, so then I required surgery so I wouldn’t lose my sight. Happily 10 years later I have 2 beautiful children, and still have my vision. My children have both had regular check ups with an eye specialist since their birth, to ensure they don’t develop glaucoma.

Having children is a big decision to make for anyone, but when you have a genetic disorder of any kind that you could pass on to your babies it is a little like playing genetic Russian roulette. My children are both lucky enough not to have inherited my condition, but just as easily they both could have been born with damaged vision. This was a risk I was willing to take, but was I selfish for taking that risk? For Angelina Jolie there must be possibility she has passed on the cancer causing gene to her children, but is that risk a reason not to have babies? I think not, but I would be interested to know what others think.

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Here are my beautiful babies

Miss Lucy x