Monday, January 02, 2012


A few years ago my friend Kris directed the play W;t. It's about a woman who is diagnosed with cancer and her journey through treatment. Oddly enough, the play had just finished its run when she was diagnosed. Sadly, I did not see that performance but I read the play later.

In the play there is a phrase -- "Immortality in culture" -- that really struck me. Every once in a while I find myself wondering if Kris's cells are out there, suspended, waiting to be thawed out and left to grow again. It's a strange thing to think about.

Which may explain my fascination with this book.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating read. Henrietta, a poor African-American woman, was treated in 1951 at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for cervical cancer. Some of the cells of her tumor were harvested and, in a scientific breakthrough, survived and multiplied in culture. They were the first cells to reproduce through many generations, and they were used for decades in medical and scientific research around the world. Known as HeLa, these cells continue to be used today in laboratories all over the globe.

The book examines the way the cells were obtained, how they were sent to labs everywhere, and how companies later profited from them while leaving her family ignorant of the fact the cells were still living long after Henrietta herself had died. The repercussions of decisions made in 1951 reverberate through the book, even to the present day.

I started and finished this book the same day, which has not happened in quite some time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The science is interesting but not overwhelming, the family story is compelling, and the author places herself in the story, which I would normally criticize but in this case, in her voice, it seems entirely appropriate.

Highly recommend.

And now for a bit about me. I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. This year it hasn't been so bad, what with the relatively warm temperatures and the lack of snow. (No snow! On Christmas! Reminded me of Christmas 1997, when G was a baby and it was a brown Christmas. For the record, I am all for brown Christmases.)
Today it's cold -- I walked the dog this afternoon and I am guessing it was around 15 degrees F. Cold. But I discovered that I can even stay pretty cheerful in the cold with little or no snow on the ground. Apparently some of my struggles are simply from dealing with the (usually) ubiquitous white stuff. Good to know.

So this year I have not had to deploy all of my weapons yet (although I am aware we have a long way to go). Things I have found helpful for me in dealing with my winter blues include Vitamin D supplements (which I take year round), my little blue goLITE (mine is an older model), getting out of the house at least once a day, and lemon candles. I use Sparkling Lemon and Meyer Lemon from Yankee Candle. The scent helps me -- really.

I am okay. Not great; definitely still feeling the winter blahs, if not the blues. I struggled for days in mid-December to stay vertical all day. All I wanted to do was climb into my bed and sleep. Happily, I resisted the siren song of the bed and electric blanket, and since the days are getting slightly longer every day, I know I am slowly climbing up and out of the dark.

If you struggle with SAD, or think you might have it, please see your physician. This is something I have had since I was a child. (I think I was 9 when it started.) It can be better. YOU can be better; higher energy level, better mood -- it can be different. If nothing else, adopt the "can't hurt, might help" philosophy and give it a try. It can be different. I promise.

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