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There are a lot of reasons why Thelma Ackley signed up for 23andMe — she’s fascinated by her ancestry and she’s curious about her health — but the main reason is her husband and her six grandchildren.
A few years ago her husband Jim, a former engineer, developed Parkinson’s disease. The neurodegenerative disease is slowly taking away his control over his muscles. It makes it harder for him to walk and do the kind of handyman work he so enjoyed.
He’s still able to do a lot and is spry and happy, but for the things he can’t do, Thelma now is there. She keeps Jim as active as possible. The couple walk together up to a mile a day, and Thelma makes sure Jim does regular physical therapy.
“I want to keep him around for as long as I can,” she said.
But of all the things she has done for Jim, the easiest was signing up for 23andMe and consenting to research. Although 23andMe has research communities where patients with conditions like Parkinson’s Disease, Sarcoma and MPN can join for free, any 23andMe customer can participate and help out simply by consenting to research when they enroll.
“We’ve conquered so many diseases like Polio and all it takes is people working hard on it and one thing I can do to help is this,” she said.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to cure Parkinson’s overnight, but participating in research may help scientists find the causes and treatments for the disease. Thelma said she doesn’t know why someone wouldn’t participate.
“I have six grandchildren from ages 21 to 30 and I don’t want this to befall them,” she said. “This is something I can do for them as well.”