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Breaking Barriers : My journey with clinical Trials and the legacy of Henrietta Lacks

In this blog post, I want to share my personal experience as an African-American woman navigating the world of clinical trials. I will delve into the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, whose story has left a lasting impact on the trust and participation of African-Americans in medical research. Through my own journey with triple-negative breast cancer and the importance of DNA testing to determine the likelihood of recurrence, I aim to shed light on the barriers faced by our community and the need for relatable and urban narratives to bridge the gap.


As an African-American woman diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, my journey has been filled with both hope and skepticism. When my doctor mentioned the possibility of participating in a clinical trial to determine the DNA characteristics of my tumor and the likelihood of recurrence, I couldn't help but feel a mix of emotions. On one hand, I understood the potential benefits of contributing to medical research and advancing treatment options. On the other hand, I couldn't shake the deep-rooted mistrust that has been ingrained in our community for generations.

The legacy of Henrietta Lacks looms large in the minds of many African-Americans when it comes to clinical trials. Her story, immortalized in Rebecca Skloot's book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," highlights the exploitation and mistreatment of black patients in medical research. Henrietta's cells, known as HeLa cells, were taken without her consent and used for groundbreaking scientific discoveries, all while her family remained unaware for years. This betrayal of trust has left a lasting impact on the African-American community, fostering a sense of skepticism and fear when it comes to participating in clinical trials.

But here I am, standing at a crossroads, faced with the decision of whether to trust the medical system and contribute to the advancement of cancer research. It is a decision that weighs heavily on my mind, as I consider the potential benefits not only for myself but for future generations of African-Americans who may face similar battles.

In order to bridge the gap and build trust, it is crucial for clinical trials to be relatable and urban. We need stories that reflect our experiences, stories that acknowledge the historical injustices and address the concerns that have been passed down through generations. By sharing narratives that resonate with our community, we can begin to break down the barriers that prevent us from fully participating in medical research.

It is also essential for researchers and healthcare professionals to actively engage with the African-American community, addressing our concerns and providing transparent information about the purpose and potential risks of clinical trials. By fostering open and honest communication, we can build a foundation of trust and encourage more individuals to consider participating in these vital studies.

As I reflect on my own journey, I realize that participating in a clinical trial is not just about me. It is about challenging the status quo, breaking down barriers, and ensuring that future generations have access to the best possible treatments. It is about reclaiming our power and rewriting the narrative of medical research within the African-American community.

So, as I make my decision, I choose to be hopeful. I choose to believe that by participating in this clinical trial, I am not only contributing to the advancement of cancer research but also reclaiming our voice and rewriting our story. Together, we can break the cycle of mistrust and pave the way for a future where African-Americans are active participants in shaping their own healthcare outcomes.

In memory of Henrietta Lacks and all those who have been affected by the injustices of the past, let us forge a path of empowerment, education, and advocacy. Together, we can create a future where clinical trials are not just a source of fear but a beacon of hope for all.


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