The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Chapter 8 Summary


After Henrietta Lacks’s radiation treatments were complete, doctors saw no more signs of tumors in her body. Henrietta did not believe that she was cured; she told them she thought her cancer was spreading. They told her that she was fine and sent her home. There is nothing in their notes to indicate that she questioned them further. In the 1950s, it was not customary for patients to question doctors’ judgment, or for poor black people to question highly educated white people.

Over the next couple of months, Henrietta repeatedly returned to the hospital to complain of pain. At first, she was told she was fine. After a while, however, doctors found an enormous tumor in her abdomen. Just weeks after they had claimed she was healthy, they diagnosed her with inoperable cancer. There was nothing they could do to help her. Her cousin Sadie later said that Henrietta did not waste away from her illness but did appear to be in great pain: “Her eyes was tellin you that she wasn’t gonna be alive no more.”

A week after declaring her cancer inoperable, doctors X-rayed Henrietta’s body again and found that her tumors had spread further. They began a process of radiation...

(The entire section is 417 words.)