Cancer and the Impact on Families

Continuing to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has made it hard for me not to remember how cancer has gripped my family, specifically breast cancer. My great-grandmother fell victim to breast cancer, which impacted my family immensely. Years later, when my grandmother died from breast cancer, my family was even further riveted. My grandmother lost her life to breast cancer when she was just 46 years old, causing me to have never met her, but to be named after her. Overall, breast cancer is a tough issue to talk about in my family.

Through continuing to turn the pages of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and recalling the personal impact cancer has had on my family, it is difficult for me not to imagine how Henrietta’s family must feel as they are constantly reminded of her death through the development of HeLa cells. Don’t get me wrong; HeLa cells have done amazing things in the medical field. They have made the polio vaccine possible. They have advanced cloning. They have furthered research on fertilization. However, I cannot help to wonder, how does Henrietta’s family feel about her cervix being removed without permission and being used for numerous tests and research?

The truth is that cancer affects every family in the world. It is nearly impossible to speak to someone who does not have a family member who has fallen victim to cancer. This being said, I am unsure whether a family would be accepting to having the body of their loved one be dismembered to conduct research on if they were not given permission. I am certain that I would be very upset if this happened to one of my family members.

Cancer is a very heartbreaking disease in our world. It viciously takes the lives of the ones who we love, and there is unfortunately nothing we can do about it. Continuing to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has truly stirred up mixed emotions inside of me. On one hand, I am upset that this kind of research was conducted without Henrietta’s permission, but on the other, I am amazed of how much progress it has created within today’s medical field.

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