Kentucky has the highest cancer rates in the nation, with the Appalachian region bearing the brunt of this burden. The latest book from the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center's ACTION Program offers a unique and deeply personal lens into the region's ongoing struggle with cancer. 

"Cancer in Appalachia: A Collection of Youth-Told Stories" features fictional short stories and poems by high school and undergraduate students from the region who are participants in Markey’s Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) Program

This edition of “Cancer in Appalachia” is the first to feature a collection of fictional stories – including narratives of loss, hope and resilience as families and communities grapple with the harsh realities of cancer. Each piece in the book tackles a different aspect of the cancer journey, incorporating health behaviors and social determinants of health that contribute to the region’s cancer burden. 

"These fictional stories, inspired by the students' own experiences and knowledge, offer a powerful way to connect with the heart of the issue," said Nathan Vanderford, PhD, director of the ACTION program and the book’s co-editor. "We hope these stories resonate with readers and bring a greater awareness to the cancer crisis in Appalachian Kentucky, and most importantly, the need to take action." 

Student authors include: 

  • Ceana Bays, Clark County
  • Kelci Blair, Johnson County  
  • Chezney Boothe, Perry County  
  • Harley Bowen, Carter County  
  • Katie Anne Brown, Laurel County  
  • Mackenzie Caldwell, Madison County  
  • Caylee, Caudill, Johnson County  
  • Makinna Caudill, Magoffin County  
  • Peyton Trey Coburn, Boyd County  
  • Alexandra Combs, Wolfe County  
  • Karlee Compton, Montgomery County  
  • Kaylee D. Compton, Montgomery County  
  • Isabella Dunn, Magoffin County  
  • Joshua Alexander Griffith, Greenup County  
  • Emily Halcomb, Letcher County  
  • Gracie Harper, Elliott County  
  • Nathan Hogg, Rowan County  
  • Lily-Kate Hubbs, Knox County  
  • Abigail Knoy, Green County  
  • Jessica F. Lamb, Garrard County  
  • Nolan Marcum, Carter County  
  • Allisa Pack, Lawrence County  
  • Jonathan Ramsey, Pulaski County  
  • Matthew Sanders, Laurel County  
  • John Maggard-Staton, Elliott County  
  • Haleigh J. Thompson, Lawrence County  
  • Olivia Thornsbury, Pike County  
  • Hanah Whisenant, Lawrence County  
  • Zane Whitaker, Magoffin County  
  • Emory Wilds, Pulaski County  
  • Olivia Wilds, Pulaski County  
  • Carolene Willhoite, Montgomery County 

The book is available for purchase through Butler Books and Amazon. All the proceeds from book sales will go to support the ACTION Program and its mission to train the next generation of leaders to address Appalachia’s cancer burden.  

In addition to Vanderford, ACTION Program coordinator Holly Burke serves as an editor of the second edition. Vanderford and Burke will be giving away hundreds of copies to community members in Appalachian Kentucky, serving as a free and accessible educational tool in these communities.