“Life’s what you make of it,” she says, which was cliche when I was young eight hundred years ago. “And life is change. The only thing immortal is cancer.” Her tone shifts, into the dreamy music of the storyteller, “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman who died in pain, but before she went they took a bit of the tumor that killed her… and it lives forever. It’s been replicating in glass dishes more than half the last century.” She looks up, eyes alight in the darkness. “Even if she’d lived, she’d be an old woman now, but her cancer is ageless. And everyone’s made money from it but her kith and kin.”
Terence steps back and looks at her, an odd sour look of appraisal on his face.
Notes: The ‘beautiful woman’ of this story is Henrietta Lacks, the unknowing donor of the HeLa cell line. The full story is told in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.