I thought I would share this essay I wrote when I was 17. This is what I submitted to BYU as part of the admission process where they ask you to tell something unique about you. It's interesting to see my thoughts 8 long years ago to where my life has taken me.
My mom recalls the day like it was yesterday. The phone rang. “Mrs. VanDerwerken, I’ve got good news and bad news. First, the good news, you are having a healthy daughter. Unfortunately, she’s a carrier.” My mom slumped to the floor, crying tears of joy, mixed with a little sorrow.
I am child number four, the first daughter. I have a balanced translocation of chromosomes #2 and #13. That is what makes me a “carrier”. A big chunk of my #2 chromosome is translocated and sitting on the end of my #13 chromosome. Except for this huge aberration of every single cell of my body, I am otherwise totally and completely normal. The challenge of a balanced translocation lies ahead: I have a 50/50 chance with every pregnancy of having a severely handicapped child. My parents have had one goal in raising me---to raise a daughter equal to the challenge of reproductive Russian roulette.
I know what it is like to raise a severely handicapped child. My brother James died six years ago when he was 19. James had Trisomy 2q—he got two normal #2 chromosomes and the dreaded #13 with the extra #2 on the end. James was profoundly retarded with numerous physical problems. He lived at home with us. He was completely dependent on us for everything. I learned blessings come in unexpected ways.
When I was nine my parents adopted a newborn baby girl from the Marshall Islands. I finally had a sister. It’s been a blessing to see that there is more than one way to create a family.
As a young child in Primary I was taught to choose the right. This is a great place to start, but there is more to moral decision making than choosing between right and wrong. The harder decisions are choosing between competing goods, recognizing that any choice has costs and consequences. I guess everyone figures this out eventually, but my awareness has come earlier than most because of my genetic inheritance. The BYU community will benefit from my ability to bring this much needed insight into its conversations.