Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Immortal Henrietta Lacks


I recently came across the incredible tale of Henrietta Lacks and her immortal HeLa cells and I've been thinking about it ever since.

In 1951 a 31 year old Baltimore housewife and mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Shortly before she died, her doctor obtained a biopsy sample of her cancer cells. The cells astounded researchers and scientists by doing something they'd never seen before. Not only didn't they die but and they kept dividing and multiplying. Soon they took over all the tubes and dishes in the lab and they started contaminating other cell lines as well. While for me and you this might sound like a scifi nightmare, the scientific world was very excited about this immortal tumor. Soon enough requests started coming in from around the world for sample cells. These cells are now in thousands of labs around the world and they show no sign of slowing down. HeLa cells were used by Jonas Salk in his research that led up to the polio vaccine. They were used to help find cures to cancer and AIDS and more than 60,000 scientific papers have been published about research done on HeLa.

On some evolutionary level one can argue that Henrietta is the ultimate survivor and success story. After all, what is the human body if not for millions of cells? The survival and propagation of your cells is what it's all about. So what that her consciousness is not around to witness it? What difference does it make, that she has no clue of her immortality?
Then I thought about cancer in general. White blood cells start multiplying rapidly and killing off other cells. Basically you have a battle of cells inside your body. All the cells are YOU. Why are we taking sides?
The reason is quite simple, the "bad" cells while they might be all powerful are going to eventually kill the vital parts of your body and bring the whole game to end. So you side with the part of you that will prolong your life, even if it means killing other parts of you.
So too it is with spirituality and especially with addictive, compulsive behavior.
True, it might be just as part as ourself as our good self, but the fact is, that these behaviors are killing us spiritually. If we embrace bad behaviors, we slowly starve our souls while empowering our errant cells to run amok. So while on some level we might be viewed as a "success", on a much deeper level our consciousness and spiritual self awareness has been cut off and no longer functions.
We become the immortal Henrietta Lacks against our very deepest spiritual desires and wishes.




Anonymous theonlywayiknow said...

Very nice.
like the addictive behavior element:-)

March 08, 2011 2:36 PM  
Blogger Soul Comfort said...

This piece paints all the greys of life black & white.
Just beautiful.

March 08, 2011 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 16, 2011 9:00 PM  

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