Henrietta Lacks and Me

When I tell people the story of Henrietta Lacks and her cells, their first question is usually “Wasn’t it illegal for doctors to take Henrietta’s cells without her knowledge?”      Rebecca Skloot

My book club is reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

The summary on the front cover says, Doctors took her cells without asking.  Those cells never died.  They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry.  More than twenty years later, her children found out.  Their lives would never be the same.  I think that sounds fascinating.  I have read several chapters and would like to keep reading but there is one major glitch.  Henrietta had cancer.

Because I have been through my own cancer experience I just can’t wade through someone else’s.  I tried to skip some of the passages that focus on Henrietta’s treatments, recovery and prognosis but there is too much.  My problem with reading all this is that I stumble into the emotion of her illness and I find myself living her disease.  I don’t want to do that.  I don’t need to wallow in cancer and wonder if what happens to her will somehow attach to me.  Some people can read about problems of others and learn from them.  I tend to read about them and then I transport into their reality.  This is not a good place to center myself. 

I have known this about myself for a very long time.  In the past, I chose often to ignore my intuition thinking I was being silly.  Since cancer, I don’t ignore my intuitive sense any more.  I listen and make decisions based on what I hear.  I take care of myself.  Maybe that’s where the adage comes from, “God helps those that help themselves.” 

I guess I’ll find out about Henrietta Lacks, her cells and her family when my book club meets.

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