The following books are written by high school and undergraduate students who are participants in the National Cancer Institute-funded Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) Program located at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.  The books highlight personal experiences with cancer, why cancer is so prevalent in Appalachia, and they touch on what can be done to lower the cancer burden among families, friends and communities in Eastern Kentucky. Ultimately, the books aim to educate and inspire readers to take ACTION to lower cancer rates in the region.





ACTION Book CoverDecember 3rd, 2023 

The Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) program has taken a new approach to sharing information about the cancer crisis in Kentucky’s Appalachian regions by instructing students to write fictional, yet realistic, stories and poems about Kentuckians' experience with the cancer burden. Thirty-two ACTION high school and undergraduate students participated, resulting in the 3rd published work titled, “Cancer in Appalachia: A Collection of Youth-Told Stories”. 

Director of the program and editor of the book, Dr. Nathan Vanderford, explains in the preface, “The mission of this book is to bring greater awareness to the cancer crisis in Appalachian Kentucky through youth-told stories. I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I do. I hope you remember them, and I hope they lead you to take ACTION that will help reduce the cancer burden in Appalachian Kentucky.” 

The students featured in this edition are: Ceana Bays, Kelci Blair, Chezney Boothe, Harley Bowen, Katie Anne Brown, Mackenzie Caldwell, Caylee, Caudill, Makinna Caudill, Peyton Trey Coburn, Alexandra Combs, Karlee Compton, Kaylee D. Compton, Isabella Dunn, Joshua Alexander Griffith, Emily Halcomb, Gracie Harper, Nathan Hogg, Lily-Kate Hubbs, Abigail Knoy, Jessica F. Lamb, Nolan Marcum, Allisa Pack, Jonathan Ramsey, Matthew Sanders, John Maggard-Staton, Haleigh J. Thompson, Olivia Thornsbury, Hanah Whisenant, Zane Whitaker, Emory Wilds, Olivia Wilds, and Carolene Willhoite. All students are from one of the 54 Appalachian counties in Kentucky that the ACTION program serves. The book also features Katrice A. Albert, PhD Vice President for Institutional Diversity at the University of Kentucky in the Afterword titled, “Giving Voice: A Call to Action for Transformational Understanding”.   

In addition to the program Director Nathan Vanderford, program coordinator Holly Burke served as an editor and helped students through multiple rounds of drafting leading to the final and completed short story. The book is currently available for purchase through Butler Books and Amazon. All proceeds from the book sales will go to support the ACTION program. 

second edition coverFeb. 28, 2022

Following the release of their first book, “The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia: Kentucky Students Take ACTION,” the ACTION Program has published a second edition of essays written by its high school and undergraduate students.

The essays included in this book reveal cancer’s impact on the personal lives and communities of the students who wrote them. “Through the perspective of our students, readers gain an understanding and appreciation for Appalachian Kentucky’s cancer burden and the consequences of high cancer rates in the area,” said Nathan. L Vanderford, Ph.D., one of two editors of the book and ACTION Program Director. 

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and Kentucky leads the nation in cancer rates—particularly concentrated among the 54 counties within the Appalachian region of Kentucky. High tobacco use, poor diets and obesity, poverty, low healthcare access and engagement, and other factors drive these high rates.

The stories included in this book series provide an excellent opportunity for the ACTION participants to practice research, writing and community outreach; key components of what they do through the ACTION Program. “There are few other activities that have such a high level of impact on students in terms of connecting educational material with lived experiences,” Vanderford said. “Writing the essays and becoming published authors are significant career development outcomes for our students.” Vanderford and his students hope to not only utilize these books to educate Kentuckians on the severity of the cancer crisis in Appalachia, but they hope to reach people from outside the region as well.

The students featured in this edition are: Ceana Bays, Chezney Boothe, Harley Bowen, Kassidy Burke, Caylee Caudill, Makinna Caudill, Alexandra Combs, Karlee Compton, Isabella Dunn, Emily Halcomb, Gracie Harper, Nathan Hogg, Wyatt McCarty, Allisa Pack, Matthew Sanders, John Staton, Hanah Whisenant, Zane Whitaker, Carolene Willhoite, Haseeb Ahmad, Lindsay Bryant, Michael Buoncristiani, Alexander Chang, Tyra Gilbert, Abby Hill, Caroline Jenkins, Jessica Lamb, Tyce Riddle, Thomas Sanders, Savannah Saylor, Alexia ShamaeiZadeh, Madison Tackett, and Xiaomei Zheng.

ACTION Program coordinator Chris Prichard also served as an editor of the second edition.

The book is currently available for purchase through Butler Books and Amazon. All the proceeds from book sales will go to support the ACTION Program.

action bookMarch 17, 2020

The ACTION Program has written a new book that seeks to inform, inspire, motivate and uplift the reader through personal cancer stories and cancer prevention initiatives.    

The book, “The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia: Kentucky Students Take ACTION,” contains essays by 20 high school and five undergraduate students who are participants in the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) Program at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.

The state of Kentucky has more cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than any other state in the nation. A majority of these cases are concentrated in the 54 counties that constitute the Appalachian region of the commonwealth.

The student essays in the book detail the effects of cancer diagnoses and deaths on individuals, families, friends and communities. As one of three editors of the book, ACTION Program Director Nathan L. Vanderford says he felt it was important to showcase the issue of cancer in Kentucky through personal stories and not data alone.

“Statistics around cancer and its impact are important, but data does not tell the true personal toll of the disease,” Vanderford said. “Telling stories – through the eyes of youth – of how cancer impacts individuals, families, and communities was one of the major purposes for this book. Such stories are important to share because we can learn from others’ experiences and become educated around cancer risk factors and cancer prevention and control strategies.”

With the book, Vanderford wants to reach Kentuckians that have been touched by or are invested in the cancer outlook of Kentucky. Additionally, he hopes to have a reach outside of the state so that others can better understand the cancer problem in Kentucky.

“Everyone is touched by and invested in this disease so we want to reach all citizens from students, parents, extended families, teachers, researchers, health care providers, law-makers and everyone in between,” said Vanderford. 

The book is currently available for purchase on Amazon, University Press of Kentucky, Barnes & Noble as well as on other platforms. All the proceeds will help fund similar community outreach and education projects conducted by the ACTION Program.

In addition to Vanderford, author and student at the University of Kentucky Lauren Hudson and ACTION Program Coordinator Chris Prichard served as editors of the book. The book is being published by the University Press of Kentucky.

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.