Chapter One of this compelling non-fiction text describes what happened to Henrietta when she went to her local hospital to get the pain in her womb checked out. She lay on her back on a table with her feet in stirrups as Doctor Jones gave her a full medical examination of her womb and cervix, finding the lump where Henrietta had described her pain to be. However, what is clear about this lump is that it is very different from any other cancer he has seen before:
He'd seen easily a thousand cervical cancer lesions, but never anything like this: shiny and purple (like "grape Jello," he wrote later), and so delicate it bled at the slightest touch. Jones cut a small sample and sent it to the pathology lab down the hall for diagnosis.
So, during Henrietta's first visit to Hopkins Hospital, she was given a full medical check of her womb and cervix and a sample of the tumour was cut off and sent for diagnosis. Between this and her next visit to the hospital, in three short months, the size of her tumour would have increased dramatically, and this would clearly indicate that there was something seriously wrong with her and that the cancer she had was very aggressive indeed.