The Sunday Magazine

Daughter of Family G: Ami McKay's 2002 documentary about her family's deadly genetic history

This week, Canadian writer Ami McKay published a memoir about her family's history with cancer. We revisit her original 2002 documentary for The Sunday Edition about whether or not to get tested for a rare genetic mutation that causes colon cancer. Her documentary, and her memoir, are called "Daughter of Family G." 
Ami McKay's memoir, Daughter of Family G, is about a rare genetic mutation, common in her family, that causes cancer. In 2002, she made a documentary for The Sunday Edition about whether or not to get tested for the mutation. (Ian McKay, Knopf Canada)

One day in 1895, a Michigan seamstress named Pauline Gross confided her worst fears to the doctor who employed her. "I'm healthy now," she said, "but I fully expect to die an early death from cancer. Most of my relatives are sick, and many in my family have already passed on."

The doctor decided to investigate. His work was the first step in the discovery — 100 years later — of a gene mutation that causes colon cancer.

It's frighteningly common in a large extended group of aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings and grandparents collectively known, in genetic research circles, as Family "G".

Acclaimed Canadian writer Ami McKay belongs to that family. In 2001, as she wrestled with whether or not to get tested for the gene mutation, she spoke to her family about the benefit — and burden — of knowledge. She made a documentary for The Sunday Edition about that process, called "Daughter of Family G."

This week, McKay published a memoir by the same name. To hear her documentary, which first aired in 2002, click 'listen' above. 


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