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    March 4, 2011

    General readers! Has Henrietta Lacks’s story captivated you? Have you benefited from her cells? Share your story.


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    If you have read The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, we want to hear from you!

    Since the book was published, readers of all kinds — scientists, teachers, nurses, librarians, members of book groups, high school and college kids, people old and young from all over the world — have emailed, written to and faxed author Rebecca Skloot sharing their thoughts about HeLa, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. We want to hear from you too!

    So many readers have been personally touched by the story of Henrietta Lacks: Did it change the way you think about cells, science, medical practices, research, race, American history, the way cancer is treated? What is your relationship to HeLa? Did HeLa cells help save your life or the life of someone you love? Did the book change how you think about your own research? Were you touched by the story of Henrietta’s family? If the book moved you, we want to hear about it. This is the place to tell us your story.

    Email us at lisa@rebeccaskloot.com with your story, thoughts, and comments, or post them in the comments thread below.  And stay tuned:  We are also collecting video testimonials, which we’ll be posting online soon.  If you’d like to submit a video testimonial, please drop us a note at the address above.

    154 Responses to “General readers! Has Henrietta Lacks’s story captivated you? Have you benefited from her cells? Share your story.”

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      Joyce says:

      As a retired social worker I was enthralled with Rebecca’s relationship with Deborah Lacks Pullam. She worked so hard to gain Deborah’s trust. Her descriptions, in Deborah’s words, of her fears and anxieties were remarkable. It is so difficult to bridge a culture gap, yet Rebecca achieved this by listening so carefully.

      I have visited many homes of the poor in my work and realize that so few middle class people really understand what it is like to be the working poor with no safety net (health care). Rebecca described this so honestly and clearly.

      I can’t wait for my book club discussion!

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        Renee says:

        Hello, Joyce. Thank you for your kind comments. If you haven’t already discovered the “Reading Groups” page on Rebecca’s site, be sure to visit http://rebeccaskloot.com/the-immortal-life/reading-group/. There are lots of great resources, including photos, video, discussion guide and FAQ. I hope you have a great discussion.

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      Abby says:

      This book was very insightful. It has taught me a lot about racial discrimination as well as the fact that family will always be there for you. I knew there was discrimination against those of color but I had no idea it went as far as refusal of treatment. Henrietta had to go to a specific hospital just so she could get treated for her cancer. That particular hospital was many more miles away than others but no one else would help her in her time of need.
      I have also learned about the importance of family. My family is very close to one another and I realized after reading this that other people have good relationships with their family members. Henrietta’s family stuck by her side when she needed them, even if she stayed strong throughout her time with cancer. Her family knew she needed help and they helped her anyway she would let them. This really stuck out to me when reading the book because I know my family would do the same for anyone if they needed help in anyway.

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      Norene says:

      I just finished this amazing story. It was so intriguing, I could not put it down. I even convinced my book club to read it. I am so glad Rebecca persevered through the lengthy process and wrote this for the Lacks family and all of us. Henrietta’s story needed to be told. This book is the honor she deserved. The book was absolutely beautifully written.

      My prayers go the Lacks family for continued healing.

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      CJ says:

      I have read several books in the past year, including this one, that have stuck with me. They left such an impact that I think about them almost daily —and recommend them to anyone who will listen to my rave reviews.

      In August, I roamed airport shops while waiting for my flight from Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) to Rio de Janeiro —and found a Portuguese translation “A Vida Imortal de Henrietta Lacks.” I’m so glad the book is being sold worldwide, for it was not only an entertaining read, it addressed important issues of medical ethics.

      You can view a photo of the Portuguese version here:

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      Bette MacCarthy says:

      Where to begin…..I am a great believer in things meant to be, like this book. I was meant to read it…..I was at a major local warehouse outlet looking for a new book to read. A woman leaned across two people to tell us all “this is the best book I ever read”. I have to agree…..
      This book had so many coincidences for me…….my own mother died when I was 10 yrs old in 1957 of cervical cancer. I only found out through this book that the pap smear had already been invented but not widely used at this time. My stepdaughter just got her PhD in bio-chemistry and used HeLa cells in much of her research. We moved here a yr ago from NE (Richmond) and Clover, VA is only 80 miles or so south of us. My new neighbor grew up in Clover and knew of the Lacks family. What an incredible number of coincidences….I was truly meant to read this book. It came at a perfect time….during Hurricane Irene, when we had no power for five days and I could read it non-stop….
      I loved this book…..The author conveyed to a non-scientist a truly fascinating and poignant story of one family’s struggle. We can all relate.
      I loved it!!!!

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      Stephen Leslie says:

      P.S.S. You see like a very tolerant, and patient person….I admire that about you Ms. Skloot!

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      Stephen Leslie says:

      Hello everyone….

      This book definitely has isnpired me to peruse a biomedical degree once it is time for me to go to college. I haven’t finished this but yet, but i mist say the Henrietta Lacks’ story is very inspiring and certainly unforgettable. Every time i think about Henrietta, I always think of my mother. Henrietta reminds me of her in so many ways! I also begin to imagine how my life would change if I found out that my mother had cells that were still alive after “x amount of years”. I am currently trying to understand this whole ordeal through these eyes of the family members who were left unaware and uninformed of the situation. Whoa…they must have had a lot of angry emotions when they found put that there mothers cells were being distributed wothout there knowledge. I certainly understand that I have a lot more perspectives t analyze in the near future. Ms. Skloot, I certainly admire your clarity, your perseverance, and your determination throughoutbthis novel. Because of you, I know know you Henrietta Lacks is. I am sure that you have made her and her family proud! Rebecca Skloot and Elie Wiesel are now my faaaavvoorriittee authors! 🙂

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        Stephen Leslie says:

        P.S. I really enjoyed your comment regarding “The Twilight Zone”… I laughed so hard when I read that! I forget what page this is on…

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      Nancy says:

      I read the book about 6 months ago and have recommended it to dozens of people. These people have read it and recommended it also. Learned about HeLa Cells in med school but didn’t really give the origin of them a second thought. Have read many books over the years ( I come from a family of librarians ) but this is possibly the best I have ever read!! I found out that the book is the Common reading book for Fl State University. Some of my children’s friends are there and they really enjoyed it. ( As it seems to have no age limitations-everyone “gets” something from it one different levels.) I enjoyed the human interest part with Henrietta and her family but I really loved the way Rebecca chronicled the pathway of many research methods/tools. Although I knew about them, I didn’t know how many of them came about. She explained these sequences in a very understandable way for the average person and persons with a science background. I would LOVE to be able to go to the convocation and hear Rebecca speak but can”t get there. Will check the web site to see if it may be broadcast. Thank you Rebecca for sharing this story with us!!

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      Cindy Foss says:

      Rebecca, this book was amazing I could not put it down on to reflect on what Henerietta and her family was going trough at the time. This woman was a saint and with incredible odds. She has made Global history long after she has passed away. I felt like I was there seeing everything, everyone and the places. This was an incredible book of all time that I have never forgotten and have raved to people about. This book should be a world class movie everything is set in place.

      I feel for Henerietta’s family they lack of education to understand all of what was being down was trying and not fair at times. Today Henerietta would have been cured. I loved this book it has traveled through many hands and now its back home on my bookshelf definitely to not be forgotten.

      Rebecca, I give you five stars and a standing ovation for such an extraordinary well written book that, had it “All”. I say BRAVO LADY!

      I wish the Lacks family my best and knowing that, Henerietta is a hero now and always will be. Thank you for sharing her. God Bless.

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      Carole Ferguson says:

      Of the many thousands of books I have read this one is the very best. I read it in one sitting and can’t stop thinking about all the issues. I hope that Henrietta’s family is now receiving some support. During my Science studies in the 60s and 70s in Australia there was never any mention of Henrietta Lacks. Throughout the book I couldn’t help thinking about Rebecca’s story as well: especially on Mother’s Day when she must have been giving up yet another part of her own life to pursue the story we have all consumed. Many thanks for enriching my understanding and pin-pricking my conscience.

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      Charrie says:

      This book is an amazing read, not only did the family learn about their mother but also of their sister Elise Lacks and the treatment she received in the last years of her life. Was any more info gathered on her last days? and did anyone have to anwser for the mistreatment that was given to Elise and the other patients of Crownsville? Being a epileptic child I think of her and the torcher she experenced. My heart goes out tho each one of the lacks. An amazing family you all are.

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      debbie says:

      I’ve only begun and have screamed, gasped and cried out loud. I feel attached to Henrietta, like I am a part of her family. I felt pain in my own stomach as I read of her last days in the hospital, experiencing unimaginable, profound pain. Rebecca’s writing is phenomenal. I feel like I am beside her, every step of the way. Ok, I just had to give my teeny two cents. I will be back soon.

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      Maria says:

      Once I started reading “The Immortal Life . . . ” I did little else until I finished it. I kept hoping to find the silver lining for the Lacks’ family somewhere along the way. I found Henrietta’s jaunty picture (with her hands on her hips) in such contrast with the rest of the story but yet spot on with the reaction the book is receiving today. The strong, right into the camera pose dares you to not be affected by what you just read. “A poor, African-American woman changed your world. What are you going to do about it?” Compensation for the family at this point, while certainly warranted, strikes me as too little, too late. Their suffering can not be undone. After a good cry at the end of the book, I have to believe that all wrongs will be made right in the spiritual world.

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      TxReader says:

      Hi. Throughout my reading of this book, I was infuriated by the lack of money the Lacks family received by researchers, doctors, etc. Now, I also wonder if the family is receiving any money from Rebecca Skloot from the proceeds of this book, the HBO special by Oprah, etc? It only seems fair and appropriate that while the family has received not help from the past, they might receive money from the millions that will now be earned from the book, movies, and publicity. I realize the author has donated some money to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation… what about specific accounts, funding, etc. for the Lacks family in particular?

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        faranak says:

        I also would love to know the answer if Lacks family has or will recieve the well deserved money that is profited from their story. All I can add is, I was so ashamed I did not know earlier about this book and how people can go on, not reading this invaluble story in our history…it is MY bible.

        NOTE TO COMMENTOR: Thank you for the kind words. For information about how the Lacks family has benefited from the publication of the book, visit the Frequently Asked Questions page of this site.

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      Norma says:

      I’ve recently read the book when a colleague recommended it. I have really enjoyed it. It raised lots of issues for us as we work to safeguard adults who are deemed to lack what we refer to in England as ‘mental capacity’ to decide on issues that are affecting them.

      Before I read the book I had never heard of HeLa or Mrs Lacks but what a story! I was outraged on the family’s behalf; how they have all been affected by what happened to their mother is harsh reading but sadly they are not the only ones something like this has happened to. All we can do is try to ensure that no – one is exploited like this again. How dare they take samples at the autposy despite Mr Lacks not agreeing!

      I told my dad (he’s 85 and in remission from his cancer) about the book and Mrs Lacks. So on his behalf, thank you to Mrs Lacks and her family for what they have done to enable cancer research in particular. My dad says he could be in remission thanks to Mrs Lacks’s cells. So I’d just like to say that whilst Mrs Lacks’s family have been terribly affected by what happened, the contribution to medical research is priceless, a big thank you (and a cyberspace hug!) from me and my dad.

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      Melinda says:

      I want to thank Rebecca for this book. I, like many other folks who have had a biology class, knew that the HeLa cells came from a woman who died from cancer and wondered about the woman and her family. Except unlike the rest of us, Rebecca followed up on her curiosity to the benefit of many people who otherwise would have never thought about the very complicated human connections in scientific research.
      I also want to thank Rebecca for having the confidence to write in the regional dialect. I come from a part of the country where old platation life grew into the type of complicated small town mixing of folks that she described. Thankfully by the time I was old enough to start school the schools had been integrated but of course there was still some “self-segregation.” Anyway, the dialogue (or is it dialect?) rings true to my ears and comes across as being truthful rather than somehow condescending. I know what it’s like the be that one standing out as different as one of the few white kids who rode the bus to school (at least on our route!). Thank goodness the times have changed, not completely, but hopefully for the better.
      Also wanted to bring to your attention a story I saw on the news this morning about the controversy over placing the unidentified human remains from the twin towers in a memorial under the new buildings. The remains would be available for scientists to keep working on to identify more of the victims if possible. Not all of the families were contacted before the decision was made to place the remains there, and now the decision has to be made on how to ger their consent/opinions.

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      Jane Sinclair says:

      I just finished reading the book and loved it. In the early sixties I worked in a lab for the Mass Dept Public Health, Virus Diagnostic Unit. We had HeLa cell cultures and were told about “Helen Lane”. We made our own tissue cultures from chick embryos for our research project on Eastern and Western equine encephalitis. But we also bought monkey kidney tissue cultures from Microbiological Associates for diagnostic work with enteroviruses, including polio. Due to the Sabin vaccine at that time , people thought they were getting polio from the oral vaccine, etc. Anyway, I liked everything you went through to gather all the information included in this book.

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      Anna says:

      We’ve all benefited from Mrs. Lacks. Almost every child born in the United States is given the polio vaccination and many young women have received the recently approved Gardisil shot.
      This book was an amazing read and I’m so glad I have been exposed to this world of uncertainty in the Scientific world. It seems incredible that they were so unorganized when today, documentation is the most important part of experimentation.
      Mrs. Lacks was so brave to go through he treatments only to be tossed around like a gossip story. She deserved better and I think this book has really done her justice.

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      Sharron says:

      I want to thank the Lacks family for sharing their mother with the world. Because of research done on her cells, my young daughters can now be vaccinated against the same cervical cancer that took their mother’s life. When I take my precious girls for their Gardasil vaccines, I will tell them about Henrietta and offer a prayer for her family.

      I am so thankful to Ms. Skloot for sharing Henrietta’s story with all of us. I feel like the Lacks are dear friends.

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      Lavender says:

      I loved this book. I was mad at the docs for not telling Henriitta what was happening. If it were a while person the outcome would have been differently.

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        Catherine says:

        I understand that you might feel this is a race issue, but it isn’t. Cancer knows no color and doesn’t discriminate. Keeping information from patients about Cancer was the norm in the 50’s. It was feared and kept from families and patients as well. It was such a dirty word and people actually thought it was contaigious. My mother had esophageal cancer and was operated on. During surgery, the Doctors realized the cancer was metastasized and she would not survive. They closed the incision and told her my mother they had given her a new lease on life. The doctors only told my father, who had to live with the news that his wife would soon be dead. I can’t imagine my Mother’s anguish as she lost her strenght and withered down to 80 pounds and yellowed from jaundice. I can’t fathom what my father endured for over a year, knowing he would be a widower with three small children. My mother had radiation treatments as well, but I often wonder if they speed up her death. I just pray that the treatments or experimentation, as it must have been, were instrumental in helping others fight cancer. The Lacks family should be honored by their mothers contribution to the world and they also be compensated financially.

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      Nadine says:

      This is an incredible book. Huge thanks to Rebecca and everyone involved for bringing it to light, and of course, to Henrietta’s family for allowing their story to be told. I have learnt so much about so many different things from reading it and I will be telling everyone I know about it. I felt awful about things the family have endured. I am grateful that good has come out of it, and I want to say a very big thank you to Henrietta and to medical science and researchers because I have no doubt that either I or someone I know will have been or will be helped at some point because of their input. I understand how Henrietta’s family felt about the lack of information, communication and recognition and am glad this is being rectified and I wish them all the best.

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      Ashley Wilde says:

      I don’t think I can adequately explain the affect this book had on me and everyone else I know who have read it. I was born into a caucasian family in Chicago who to this day still refer to African Americans in mean and vulgar terms. Myself growing up in a different time have never and will never agree with their thoughts. It infuriates me to be around them when they speak ill of ANY race.

      This book goes into every aspect of racial injustice, from a scientific standpoint and ethical standpoint, to just a plain humanitarian standpoint. I can’t imagine the horrors that Henrietta experienced, how scared she must have been. It’s unfortunate that she had to endure so much pain, and would never know what her cells did for the world even though they were taken without her knowledge. For the sake of her children, I wish this would have never happened.

      I believe after reading the book though, that this happened to Henrietta Lacks for a reason. I am certain that her cells have affected many people on this planet, NO MATTER WHAT THE RACE. For that her family should be proud. I also feel confident that she, Elsie, and Deborah are up in their own Heaven- catching up, hugging, and painting their nails bright red; making up for lost time.

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      Jamie says:

      Heard about this book on NPR and downloaded it to my e-reader instantly because I knew it was a “must read” for me. Many people above have already captured my sentiments regarding your amazing book, but I wanted to share my personal story.

      For the past five years, my husband and I have been trying to start our family. After countless months of disappointment, hundreds (maybe even close to 1000 at this point) of needles, various mood-altering hormones, 4 failed IUI cycles, 4 IVF cycles and money spent that would have been equivalent to a down-payment for an upper-middle class home in most US cities, we finally found out a couple weeks ago that we’re FINALLY pregnant – WITH TWINS!!! The first time I saw their strong heartbeats, all time stood still and tears of happiness freely streamed from my eyes. It was a moment I will never forget.

      I wish things could have been different with regards to the disclosure, respect, recognition and financial support offered to the entire Lacks family. But if they had not, we might have never been able to read your amazing story and hold a special place for you in our hearts.

      There is no question that research done using Mrs. Lacks HELA cells helped create the technology and drugs we needed to achieve our incredible dream. If I could talk to the family today, I would say, “Please know that your sacrifices not only helped saved lives, but create life too! Thank you!”

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      Becky Stewart says:

      I have just finished reading this book and I think it is one of the best that I have ever read. I got it from our library but now I will purchase it to have in my own library. It is so sad that nobody took the time to explain to this family exactly what was being done with HeLa. It was extremely unfair to allow them to be fearful from misunderstanding. And such a tragedy that the poor younger sister was institutionalized and treated so horribly. My heart breaks to think of what she must have gone through.

      About 32 years ago I was diagnosed with carcinoma in situ (cervical cancer), discovered from a Pap smear. A complete hysterectomy was performed and I am fine. Fortunately my doctor explained everything to me in detail and I could make the necessary choices. So, I certainly benefited from the HeLa cells. Thanks to Henrietta and to you, Rebecca, for writing this book.

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      andy ricker says:

      My father in law is an african american who grew up on k. st. in sparrows point in the fourties.His name is Theodore Patterson.He started his medical practice in Turner Station and was the first black general practitioner in Dundalk. He knew the doctor in Turner Stionan who sent Henrietta to Hopkins.I am from Maryland and know the area well……I read the book in one day…..it was if i was watching a movie instead of reading a book…i can”t get it out of my head..being white and hearing some of the things my father in law was subject to…i can appreciate what the generations before him went through…it is a book everyone should read…all i can say is WOW !….what a great movie it would make…Thank you Miss Skloot!

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      Linda says:

      I recall a physician who trained in the 1950s in Chicago who told me they had a difficult time getting bodies for the students to autopsy so would tell the poor and indigent families, all African-American, that their loved one may have died from syphillis. He said they always signed for the autopsy. Also I was struck that Deborah seemed to not think much about the fact that the surviving cells were the very cancer that had killed her mother. I think I would have felt more anger at those cells. Lastly, I am old enough to recall being a little girl in the days before the polio vaccine and the fear that parents had for their children’s health. If Henrietta’s cells only helped with that one thing we all owe her our deepest esteem.

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      Rae Williams says:

      This was one of the first sample ebooks I downloaded and read. It was listed with the suggested at the top with the best sellers. By the end of the sample, I rushed to download the entire book. Emotional and so informative, I have since recommended it to friends, customers, family, anyone who asks what I’m reading. I come from a family with many nurses and researchers in it as well as cancer survivors, and I have suggested it to all of them and my chiropractor!

      Although I am not at all medically or science inclined, I cherished this book. Amazing, sad, and full of life! I’d never heard of HeLa or Henrietta Lacks until I saw the title of the book.

      Thank you to Ms. Skloot for making everyone aware of them. And thank you to the Lacks family for sharing not only your story, but your mother with the world.

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      Marilyn Rivera says:

      I just finished reading your book. I could not put it down. I so enjoyed it from beginning to end. What an amazing story. But I have to say I started to cry at the point when you went to see Zakariyya for the first time. You did a great job with this book. I’m going to give this book to my daughter so she can read it. I’m looking forward to the movie version as well. Thank you for writing this book.

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        Eric Cravey says:

        Yes! The scene when the author met Zakariyya with Deborah standing there tore my heart in half. But, one of the moments I will always remember about this book is a quote that appears early on in the book from Deborah when she told the author she wanted to know what her mother smelled like. When I read that sentence, I connected with what I believed to be her deep sense of longing and pain. I can say this because I lost my mother to cancer in 2007 after living a long, wonderful life.

        But it’s heartfelt moments like these that the author captures in this book that connect with others’ lives. It’s the essence of what makes not only this book, but the Nonfiction genre appealing and popular.

        I wanted to cry again when Deborah called the author “Boo,” which is a sweet term of endearment. I laughed when the author quoted Deborah saying something to the effect of “go get your own reporter.” It felt like the author and Deborah had a truly bonded partnership until the daunting scene in the motel when Deborah flipped out and the struggle ensued.

        This book is so eye-opening. I mean it is a lesson on how poverty is created and how education changes lives. It is a story of people simply wanting to know who they are and where they came from, which, to me, is one of the most basic desires we have as humans, especially as we grow older and appreciate our world and others more.

        The thread of religiosity that hangs over the narrative is also rather amazing to me. This thread is very much like connective tissue in many readers’ lives I’m sure. It was also a revelation, as a reader, when the author reveals she had never prayed before. My heart sort of flinched and yet that scene with Deborah’s cousin in Clover was very authentic and transformative.

        I have become a raving fan of this book. I have told at least 10 people about it thus far, not to mention my 500-plus Facebook friends. This is a must read and I will make a donation to the Foundation as well.

        I knew the author was special when I saw her speak at AWP in Denver last year.

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      Ashley MIlls :) says:

      This book is amazing. I can not wait for the moving to come out.

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      Ray Trimmer says:

      Thank you so much for investing the time and effort to research and write this book. It was fantastic! I loved it, my wife loved it and my mother loved it.

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      boros1124 says:

      I would ask that the book was published in the Hungarian language? I’ve been to several shops in the area, but still could not find it anywhere. Online stores also have looked at (www.konyv-konyvek.hu), but could not find it there either. Planned to prepare the Hungarian-language translation? If so, then what is the timetable?

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        Renee Coale says:

        Hello, Boros. The book is being translated into Hungarian by Park Publishing, and is expected to be out in November 2011 or so. Thanks so much for your interest in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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      Taylor Thomas says:

      When the movie on this book is being made please don’t get off the story line with a romantic story and things like that. Keep the truth and facts of this story. This book is amazing and I as well as many others love this book and don’t want the story line in the movie to change it.

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      annette says:

      This is a wonderful book. As a class we reasearched it for a medical class at the college I am currently attending. The way Hela cells have changed medicine is astounding. This would make a great movie. The facts and research need to stay true to the actual story.

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      Lori says:

      As a nurse, what struck me most in reading this book was the absolute lack of respect with which the Lacks family was treated. Not in terms of Mrs. Lacks’ treatment prior to death; that seems appropriate and within the medical standards of the time. I’m saddened by how little appropriate information the family was provided. Simply supplying thorough information at a level they could understand would have prevented so much heartbreak, fear, and anger for that family.

      I wish this book were required reading for all medical and nursing students. We need to ensure our patients and their families understand what we tell them, and that when they are giving consent to a procedure or treatment, that they truly do understand. It is their right as a patient and a human being, and the burden is on us to make sure we are providing adequate education and information.

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      Lauriette Johnson says:

      About a year ago, a co-worker introduced me to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Like others, I couldn’t put it down. I felt an immediate responsibility, if not a burden, to tell others about Henrietta’s story. This co-worker of mine teaches middle school science, and I third grade. It is the tradition at our school that third grade present a story to the rest of the school for Black History Month. Typically the children do a musical/drama about Martin Luther King, Jr., Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, etc…you know–the typical stories. I thought, “Why not tell the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family?” I wrote a play for children, told by children. The response was overwhelming! In 30 minutes or so, we were able to educate people just enough that they were asking, “What is the name of that book and where can I get it?” I am so thankful for all the hard work of Rebecca Skloot, and for the generosity of the Lacks family. Little by little, Henrietta’s story is being told–even to the young ones! Thank you, Rebecca!

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      Omar Adrian Coso says:

      My HeLa testimonial. From a faraway place.

      I read the book in a place very far away from where it was written.

      Started in Buenos Aires, Argentina and finished in the beach in Uruguay.

      Could not stop thinking and/or talking about it!

      This is not a book about Cancer, Race, Biomedical Practices, Cellular Biology, History, Politics or Policies.

      Addressing all those issues, “Inmortal…” takes the reader far deeper into a setting that proves strongly than any other that there are no differences among us all, human people, except for the ones imposed by our economies.

      Each and everyone of us, sooner or later in life, are equally delighted by the wonders of life on planet earth and frightened by the possibility of seeing the end of the life of our beloved ones.

      However we have uneven possibilities of access to sources of information due to the existence of social layers.

      Without explicitly proposing it, Rebecca Skloot gives us the clue to peacefully work to overcome our differences.

      We should commit to provide future generations with better access to scientific knowledge and therefore be able to understand nature.

      Which is an unbeatable source of happiness and might help us build a better world. Regardless of our language, skin color, gender or age.

      Immensely thankful, Rebecca!


      Buenos Aires – Argentina

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      Michaela says:

      I am going to do a 10 minutes speech in school about HeLa cells and the woman behind them, with “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” as a main source of information. Lacks’ story definitely needs to be spread and hopefully my speech will be so successful that it will lead to several intense discussions at my school.

      Thank you for this book!

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      Meg Crockett says:

      Very engaging and enlightening book about this specific woman who made such a difference to our lives today, albeit unknowingly. The information about both her family and the science around HeLa cells of great interest.

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      Deborah says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      I hope all is well. I just finished the book and I thought you did a wonderdful job in describing, explaining, researching, building your relationship with the family, teaching and accomplishing truth. I first notice the book at Barnes and Nobles while waiting for a volunteer to arrive. I had to interview her to be a mentor and I arrived early. I began reading the book and knew I wanted to share it with the sister circle I started years ago. We just completed the meeting this weekend and I have encouraged so many people to read it and to learn more about Henrietta and her family. There was a symposium here in Baltimore on Feb. 11th and the family was there. They also gave them a Banquet celebration that evening. I registered for the symposium but they were full to the capasity. I also interview a young lady from Morgan State University and she is in several organizations there and she will find a way to get many youth to check out he book and have some kind of event in honor of Henrietta. I really appreciate your hard work, diligence, dedication and persistence. I pray God will continue to bless you richly. Please let me know if you ever return to Baltimore, so i can meet you.

      The book was very deep and some chapters really make you put the book down and think. It was painful to read what Ethel did to those children and it pained me terribly. It fascinated me when Christoph invited the family to the hospital, he explained the cell history, gave them a tour, a picture and admitted what JH really did to their mother. I really like people who are not afraid of the truth- no matter what form it comes in. Rebecca thanks for being apart of and in the immortal life of HL. God Bless, keep the faith.

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      Jessica Eisner says:

      Working as a research assistant at the University of Chicago, I worked with HeLa cells as part of the early research of the role of T-cells in HIV. [I was told they were cells from a woman named Helen Lane and the cells were unique because they were, essentially, immortal]. It never occurred to me that the cells might not have been given voluntarily.

      Later, as a pathologist at the University of California, I collected, sliced and diagnosed thousands of specimens each week – and I often wondered how they were disposed of or stored after we had what we needed from them from a clinical and research standpoint.

      Currently I work in drug and vaccine development – and I follow very strict legal, ethical and company guidelines for each and every patient interaction/specimen. International ethical and Human Subject Protection guidance’s (including the Nuremberg Code, the Geneva Convention, the Helsinki Declaration, etc.) and the HIPPA law have significantly shaped and influenced my understanding of the complex issues involved in research that involves any aspect of human participation.

      Your book (in addition to being a moving story of a family treated poorly by science, educators, medicine and the government) not only provided me with deeper insight into how we got into the mess we are in, but also gave me an understanding of several surrounding issues which are not commonly known or discussed.

      I am still not sure how academia handles patient specimens which are not specifically collected for research purposes; in addition, I am sure there are many other specimen-storage aspects about my current work in development of which I am unaware. However, now I am significantly less comfortable with this fact than I was before reading your book. Let’s hope your book continues to make more doctors and scientists uncomfortable with the status quo. Therein lies the path towards progress.

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        susan cutting says:

        I read your coment with interest. My tissue was taken from me in 1988, and the NORMAL immortal cell line ,mcf10 was discovered. The Detroit Free Press did a article on me Feb.20th. 2011. You may have worked with it. I find it interesting how uncomfortable I make the medical establishment. It seems that they can deal with individuals like John Moore, and Henrietta Lacks much easier then myself. I am still alive, and therefore make it more difficult to answer the ethical problems . I was assured that no money would be made. At present, a vial of my cells sell for $279 research, and $6000 commercial. I am totally out of any aspect of the research , or the business of my cells. The researchers have been wonderful to me. It’s the business part and the special interests that haven’t.

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      Spektor says:

      What a fascinating book — I downloaded the e-book from the library and just finished reading it! Such an amazing story, and a lot of information to digest. I certainly hope that if anything, the family will have a perpetual fund established for their needs. There is no reason on earth why those individuals, instututions or companies who profited directly or indirectly from the use of the HeLa cell line for all these years should not now come together to offer an appropriate grant to aid this family — a family that can’t even afford medical care, or college for its children. For all the good these cells have done, it would be a small way to finally honor the memory of the woman from whom those tissues were taken without consent. I think that would be far more important to Henrietta Lacks than a headstone, a plaque, or an honorary symposium.

      Editor’s note: Rebecca Skloot has set up a foundation that is, among other things, helping members of the Lacks family. Please visit The Henrietta Lacks Foundation’s website for more information and to make a donation.

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        Kat says:

        DITTO! I could not have said it any better, but this is absolutely what I feel after having read this beautifully written book. I really hope this can happen.

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      Kurt D. VanMullekom says:

      Human interest stories are a delicate matter, and this one was done with the utmost care. There was a real integrity in the writing that arouses emotion in the reader, with this humble student being no exception. The closing pages of Part 1 brought about an emotional reaction that I haven’t felt since reading Wiesel’s Night, and the weight of that statement should be taken with an appreciation of this author’s delicate heart.

      The history of the medical community and the practices of the olden times came as a shock to any young person accustomed to these modern days. Not that I am naive, but it still is surprising to how far the practice of medical has advanced not only technologically, but more importantly ethically and philosophically. Somewhat overshadowing the grim realities of being an African American in the mid 20th century in America (one almost all Americans are well versed in) is the furtive nature of Gey and the members of his lab. I found it inspiring how he operated and maintained a sterile lab with literally no funding or money; this inspired me as a future professional to never let money be a limitation to your own drive and imagination. This book is not only a testament to Henrietta, her cells and her family, but also to the pioneers of a discipline in very simple scientific times.

      My heart will always go out to all the underdogs in this amazing world, and the Lacks’ fit this mold. The story of their helplessness and confusion around the mysteries about the demise of their mother and her surviving cells is about as sincere as any one that can be told. Dale, whose role as a supporting cast who steals the spotlight is an entertaining and tragic one. The story, I feel, is complete when this brave woman leaves this earth happy again finding solace in having found some answers that she sought. I also loved that Zakariyya shed some hate from his own soul from learning the truth behind his mother and her cells.

      The book is a success. Both easy to read and understand despite a background in Genetics or Molecular Biology. It is an honest portrayal of one woman’s passion to tell a story that must be told, and this story will not be forgotten thanks to her dedication. I enter a Molecular Biology Graduate program in the upcoming fall, and I imagine I’ll have the opportunity to work with HeLa will be there. However, one fine day if I am holding a culture tube with suspended cells labeled “HeLa” I will wholeheartedly know what I am holding: not a tube that cost $200 from a national supplier but the immortal cancer cells that ravaged a poor woman’s body eventually killing her in a horribly painful way, cells that allowed humankind to rid itself of diseases and that perhaps that one day I may use these cells to help the world also.

      Rebecca Skloot should be applauded for the energy and patience it took to write this irreplaceable book.

      -Marquette, MI., 2/14/2011

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      Renata Davies says:

      I would like to say a big thank you to Rebecca Skloot for giving Henrietta Lacks the recognition she deserves in the world outside of the scientific community. Her story demonstrates so clearly how one person can make an immeasurable difference to the whole world, irrespective of their age, race, religion, education or social standing.

      Having worked in clinical research, where ethics are such an integral part of a study, I was horrified at the lack of control over research that existed previously. I am truly grateful that we live in more enlightened times, where the subject’s wellbeing is paramount.

      My heart goes out to the Lacks family, whose emotional turmoil has been so compassionately described. I cried for Deborah, my heart ached at the descriptions of Henrietta’s last few months of life.

      I think back to the vaccinations I have had during my life, having never previously thought of how those drugs were developed and tested. I think by now, all of us have likely had some medical treatment that has been influenced by HeLa, and it is a humbling thought. I am just one person, my name just letters on a page … but without Henrietta Lacks and others like her, who knows if I would still be alive now to write this?

      One of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read, I would like to thanks the Lacks family for sharing Henrietta with us, willingly this time.

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      Taylor says:

      I read this book a year ago and ended up doing a series based off of it in my college campus. This book was amazing and really spoke to me and made me want to see if my campus was still using these cells or not.

      It’s a three part series titled “Cells Sell.”




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      john gazo says:

      I loved the book and have this question: many times in the book you mentioned a photo of Henrietta with her hands on her hips. Why wasn’t this photo put in your book?
      John ( retired teacher in Vermont)

      [Editor’s note: That photo referred to is the photo on the cover of the book, which you can above at the top of this webpage]

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      CM Doran says:

      I loved the book so much I have excessive fines from the library. I know I should just go out and buy it…I will!

      I worked with HeLa cells during my research fellowship [HIV and antiretroviral research] and as an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at U Wisconsin school of pharmacy.

      I’m very grateful to know Henrietta’s story and know that the family was treated very kindly by it’s author, Rebecca.

      My latest post on The Febrile Muse [dedicated to portrayal of infectious disease in literature and the arts] is inspired by Henrietta’s story and HPV.

      Thank you very much for your contributions to science writing…

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      Lewis Foster says:

      I first heard about HeLa cells in college in the early 70s and throughout graduate school. Other than the cell line originated in a tumor in a patient with cervical cancer, I knew nothing about the history of HeLa cells or Henrietta Lacks. What an incredible story! I recommend the book to my students interested in careers in the health sciences and one of my colleagues talks about the book in his bioethics class. Thank you Rebecca Skloot for your dedication in bringing the history of HeLa cells to light.

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      Kent Redman says:

      I know that this excellent book is authored by Rebecca Skloot, but reading it was a real “Paul Harvey” moment for me. It was a must read title from the moment I saw the postcard advertisement. I’ve spent years doing research in labs where HeLa cells were either used or were well known as an important resource for human medical research. Over that time I learned that HeLa cells had come from a black patient who had cervical cancer and I was familiar with the Helen Lane moniker. I eventually learned the real name behind the story, Henrietta Lacks, but despite some curiosity I never investigated the details of the cell line’s origin.

      My direct experience with HeLa cells occurred while I was doing postdoctoral research. A new gene had been identified from human DNA, but expression of the gene had not been confirmed. Western blotting of HeLa cell protein extracts was used to prove that the protein encoded by the novel gene is actually produced by human cells (1). Additional studies identified the mystery protein as ribosomal protein S27a. Having used the cells for research, it was natural for me to be interested in the story behind HeLa cells, but only after reading the book did I appreciate the book’s wide appeal outside the field of science.

      So for any of you who are saying “Who is Paul Harvey?”. Mr. Harvey was a popular radio broadcaster who as part of his short daily news program often told a story of little known background facts about some well known event or person. He called these reports “The Rest of the Story” and now thanks to Rebecca Skloot, when it comes to HeLa cells, I know the rest of the story!

      Kent Redman PhD
      Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
      Indiana University School of Medicine-Fort Wayne

      1. Redman, K,L. and Rechsteiner, M., “Extended Reading Frame of a Ubiquitin Gene Encodes a Stable, Conserved, Basic Protein, Journal of Biological Chemistry, volume 263, No. 10, April 5, pages 4926-4931, 1988.

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      danica ward says:

      Thank you Henrietta Lacks! Thank you Mrs. Skloot for deliverinng a story on science and history with such a human voice. This story has changed my life forever. You have rewritten HERSTORY!

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      Stacey says:

      I think this is an amazing chronical I have read and the relevance is just unfathomable! I have just returned from the Huntsman Cancer Research hospital in Salt Lake City with my Mom. She suffers from Multiple Myeloma and I have had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I know without a doubt that Henrietta has saved us both! Thanks to Rebecca for this remarkable book and the Lacks family for their contribution to our health!

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    The Henrietta Lacks Foundation strives to provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without their knowledge or consent.