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Appalachia's Burden

A first-person narrative project that evokes an understanding of Kentuckians in Appalachian who are battling cancer or living with the trauma it leaves behind.

This project is in collaboration with the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) Program at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center and Western Kentucky University's Photojournalism Program.
Sharing stories of strength, inspiration and resolve
These narratives aim to enlighten and bring attention to how Kentucky families living in Appalachia deal with pain, devastation and sometimes unexpected outcomes as they grapple with cancer diagnosis and recovery.
Want to Learn More?
Learn more about cancer in Kentucky and its causes through the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics Center.

Why is this project important?

The second leading cause of death
Over 600,000 deaths occur each year in this country alone as a result of cancer.
Kentucky ranks first
In the nation, Kentucky ranks first in overall cancer incidence and mortality rates.
Appalachian Kentucky faces higher cancer rates
The cancer disparities in Appalachian Kentucky are driven by key social determinants of health and health behaviors.
Who we are
“Being from Appalachia, I have firsthand experience of the causes and consequences of this disease among my family and community.”
Nathan L. Vanderford, PhD, MBA
Executive Producer, Appalachia's Burden
ACTION Program Director, UK
"After losing my own mother to cancer in 2020, I quickly became aware of how fast life can change due to this disease. Cancer affects us all one way or another."
Tim Broekema, BA, MS
Creative Director, Appalachia's Burden
Professor of Photojournalism, WKU
"Kentucky has become a second home for me, so being a part of this project has revealed the magnitude of how badly the state has been impacted by cancer. If anything, I hope this project shows the importance of research toward possible treatments and screenings."
Addison LeBoutillier
Segment Producer, Cinematography
Appalachia's Burden | A Promise
"Jennifer and her family allowed me a view into the deep impact cancer can have on loved ones around us. Whether we rely on someone, or someone relies on us, the Goggins family showed me one of the many ways Appalachia bears the burdens and triumphs of cancer."
Brenna Pepke
Segment Producer, Cinematography
Appalachia's Burden | Hope in the Foothills
"The ripples of pain cancer generates are felt by nearly all, especially in Eastern Kentucky. I hope this collection of videos can inspire those in local communities to seek screenings, and potentially treatment, and for all to ponder what is causing the high number of cases in this area."
Zane Meyer-Thornton
Segment Producer, Cinematography
Appalachia's Burden
"Cancer impacts the lives of so many people in Eastern Kentucky; nearly everyone I met had a family member or close friend dealing with cancer in their life. We need to do our part to help others see the hurt this disease can cause in our communities."
Gabi Broekema
Segment Producer, Cinematography
Appalachia's Burden | Little Things
“Appalachian cancer survivors are the heart and soul of community — their stories are more than a scary statistic — let them be heard."
Sam Mallon
Segment Producer, Cinematography
Appalachia's Burden | The Life of a Champion