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Doctor Remembers The Lasting Impact Of A Small Gesture

Robert Carolla was just 11 years old when his brother, John, died of Leukemia. It was a dark and quiet time for the family as they grieved the loss of their youngest child.

Norma Carolla (left) with her sons, John (center) and Robert (right), taken in the early 1950s.
Courtesy of Robert Carolla.

Robert later went on to become an oncologist, helping many patients and their families through treatment, and sometimes loss.

During his career, Robert often reflected on a small gesture from his brother’s doctor and the impact it had on his family as they grieved.

At StoryCorps, Dr. Carolla sat down with his wife, Margaret, to remember how it shaped his own career.

Top Photo: Dr. Robert Carolla and Margaret Carolla at their StoryCorps interview in Springfield, Missouri. By Sonia Kinkhabwala for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired Friday, July 8, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Untangling The Code”: How Losing Relatives to Cancer Inspired A Life’s Work

By the time Hadiyah-Nicole Green was 4 years old, she had lost her mother and her grandparents. Hadiyah-Nicole and her brothers went to live with her Auntie Ora Lee Smith and Uncle Gen Lee in St Louis, Missouri.

When she was in her early 20s, both Hadiyah-Nicole’s aunt and uncle were diagnosed with different forms of cancer. At 22 years old, she became the primary caregiver to the couple that had raised her.

Photo: “Auntie” Ora Lee Smith and Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green.

Watching these two important people have their lives upended by cancer and its effects inspired Hadiyah-Nicole to dedicate her life to fighting the disease.

She came to StoryCorps with her cousin, Tenika Floyd, to reflect on her aunt and uncle, and the impact that their lives had on her.

Today, Dr. Green has successfully developed technology that has killed cancer in laboratory mice, without the use of chemotherapy and radiation, and without any observable side effects. Her work is in the process of moving forward into human trials.

Dr. Green is an Assistant Professor at Morehouse School of Medicine. She also founded the Ora Lee Smith Cancer Research Foundation in honor of her late aunt.

Top Photo: Hadiyah-Nicole Green and Tenika Floyd at their StoryCorps interview in Atlanta, Georgia on January 28, 2017. By Jacqueline Van Meter for StoryCorps.