The Tragedy Of Kamala Harris Explained

Over the course of her career, Shyamala Gopalan established herself as a leading figure in the field of cancer research. She was also a formidable matriarch, with her daughters remembering her as a loving but strict parent, who had been toughened by the experience of being an Indian woman facing discrimination in American academia. She was also caring of Kamala Harris’ school friends, with one, Wanda Kagan, telling CBC News on Harris’ Vice Presidential win how Gopalan had taken her when her home life became unsafe, allowing her to finish her schooling.

Sadly, Gopalan was not able to witness the heights to which her daughter would ascend in U.S. politics and the barriers she would break down. On February 11, 2009, Gopalan died at 70 of colon cancer. Her death was felt keenly in the field of medicine, with Breast Cancer Action publishing a warm obituary of her, outlining her scientific achievements. 

In 2022 at an event promoting the government’s moonshot initiative to improve cancer research funding, she shared her experience. “After a lifetime working to end cancer, cancer ended my mother’s life,” Harris said,” I will never forget the day that she sat my sister and me down and told us she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. It was one of the worst days of my life and an experience that sadly, millions and millions of people in our country have had,” later adding, “I miss my mother every day. And I carry her memory with me wherever I go” (via The Independent).

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