A few years ago one of my friends bought me The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot for my birthday. Before that day I had never heard of Henrietta Lacks, but I trusted her judgment and figured it was worth reading. When I finshed reading the book I sat in disbelief for a while. It was hard to process everything that occurred with Henrietta and her family. It was hard to digest that even in death a woman’s body was not her own.
Henrietta Lacks was a Black woman whose cells help develop the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and many more medical discoveries. Science students learn about HeLa and her cells, but it took many years for her story to be told. What many people did not know is that her cells were taken without her permission. As she became more sick with cervical cancer, doctors were trading her cells like baseball cards. Her cells were rare and remarkable. They discovered more from a biopsy of her cells than any other cells they had attempted to clone. To make matters worse, people made money off of her cells, yet her family lived in poverty and could not afford health insurance.
Today I am saying THANK YOU to Henrietta Lacks. Because of her many people are able to live. Her cells belong to her, and she deserves to be acknowledged. I encourage you to read Henrietta’s sItory.