The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

1850 words - 7 pages

Henrietta Lacks is not a common household name, yet in the scientific and medical world it has become one of the most important and talked names of the century. Up until the time that this book was written, very few people knew of Henrietta Lacks and how her cells contributed to modern science, but Rebecca Skloot aimed to change this. Eventually Skloot was able to reach Henrietta’s remaining family and through them she was able to tell the story of not only the importance of the HeLa cells but also Henrietta’s life.
Although she was taken from the world too soon, Henrietta Lacks was a warm hearted woman, and though unbeknownst to her, she would pave the way for the medical field and greatly expand our understanding of one of the nation’s greatest killers; cancer. In 1951 people did not talk about cancer lightly; cancer was a very touchy subject, especially for those who knew they couldn’t receive treatment once they had been diagnosed. When Lacks went to the hospital because of a “knot on her womb” she never thought that it would grow into a full fledge tumor that would end up taking her life. Henrietta lived a simple yet happy life which consisted of working on the farm, loving her husband, and raising children, and she was not going to ruin the lifestyle she knew so well by telling her family that she had cancer; it was just unheard of.
Henrietta was born in 1920 to a young mother who passed away a few years after Henrietta’s birth, so she moved in with her grandfather and her cousin, David Lacks, whom everyone called “Day”. Both Henrietta and Day started working at an early age and had shared a room almost their entire life, which led to them eventually having children and marrying by the time Henrietta was twenty. Later, when Henrietta visited the John Hopkins hospital, the lump had proven to be a cancerous and as procedure, a small sample of skin was taken from Henrietta’s cervix. Then it was transferred to George Gey’s lab, where they would cultivate it and attempt to grow new cells from the sample, however, there was not much hope for the sample, as they all eventually died within days, sometimes even hours. Henrietta’s cells changed this, after multiple days of being cultivated and still living, Gey began to realize that he had discovered something amazing, and he slowly started to share his discovery with the world.
When the cells finally began growing in Gey’s lab it was seen as a huge advance in the world of science, seeing as no one had succeeded beforehand, this was a great accomplishment on his part. However, Henrietta was never told of this or how important her cells had become, she simply continued living without knowing that the cancerous cells inside her were continuing to grow despite receiving “treatment” from the doctors. Her only treatment was a small patch of radiation sewn directly into her cervix on the area where the tumor had appeared, after some tests showed that the tumor had disappeared she continued with her...

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