My Experiences Exploring: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Written By Nicki Holm, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-17 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Nicki.jpgFrom an early age, cancer played an integral role in the lives of those closest to me. Her name was Megan, she was my best friend, and she was only eighteen months old when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. Even though she passed just before her seventh birthday, we experienced together more life than I would rationally think possible in just over six years, and it was losing her that led third grade Nicki to start asking questions like: What is cancer? How could a disease be so indiscriminate that it affects such a wide range of ages, abilities, etc.? And the question seemingly everyone asks, what can we do?  

To set the foundation for one day hoping to have even the slightest understanding of this Emperor of all Maladies — the title and name given to cancer in Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Biography of Cancer — I attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in pursuit of a B.S. in Biological Sciences, with a concentration in Cellular & Molecular Biology. Over the course of my time at Cal Poly SLO, I took invaluable classes like Genetics, Cell Biology, Virology, and Immunology, but it was not until taking Molecular Biology Laboratory in my fourth year that I ever heard the name Henrietta Lacks. Continue reading