Taking The Bull By The Horns

Editor’s note: Pending an FDA decision, 23andMe no longer offers new customers access to health reports referred to in this post. Customers who purchased prior to November 22, 2013 will still be able to see their health reports, but those who purchased after that time will not. Those customers will have access to ancestry information as well as access to their uninterpreted raw data.

Crowded on a cobbled street in Spain with his sons and the tens of thousands of others dressed in white with red neckerchiefs, R. Rex Parris felt the kind of fear anyone would before preparing to run in front of raging sharp-horned bulls.Rex Parris and Sons

But having just survived cancer Rex has some experience facing down his fears.

An attorney and the mayor of Lancaster,California, Rex said he may never have had the chance of running with the bulls in Pamplona had he not tested with 23andMe. The test revealed a risk, which ultimately lead doctors to remove a fast growing  cancerous tumor.

“If I had not had the surgery, my doctors do not think I would have survived to write this story,” Rex said in a letter.

The surgery was on his prostate, and, according to Rex, it was his 23andMe test that helped alert him to the lurking threat.

His test showed he had almost double the average risk for prostate cancer. That was warning enough, but later when a routine blood test showed a much higher than average level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), Rex took notice. The test measures a type of protein produced in the prostate gland. The higher it is, the higher the risk for prostate cancer. Although his doctor was unconcerned by the results, Rex thought that the PSA test along with his 23andMe results couldn’t be ignored.

He still hadn’t decided what to do, when he fortuitously ran into a friend at a local restaurant. He told his friend, who also happens to be a world-class radiologist, about the tests. He wanted some advice about what to do. He told Rex right out to act on the information.

“You are not the average person so don’t do the average thing,” his friend told him.

Rex faced his fear and took action. He made an appointment with a doctor at USC’s Institute of Urology. An exam and biopsy revealed a small but fast-growing tumor.

“I decided on prostate surgery which was successful and early enough to avoid radiation and chemotherapy.”

The surgery also revealed that the tumor was even bigger than the biopsy indicated. His doctors told him if it hadn’t been removed he would not be alive today.

Fast-forward to the streets of Spain, and Rex with his sons is preparing to face another fear, run with the bulls and knock off an item on his bucket list.

“It was three hours of waiting followed by three seconds of frenzy,” He recalls smiling.

Results not typical. Results vary due to unique differences in each individual’s DNA. On average, customers receive at least one or two results that may help them with proactively managing their health.  23andMe’s services are not a substitute for professional medical or diagnostic advice.