I got an email yesterday from a producer (we’ll call her Cassy) of a pilot (we’ll call it Outrageous Outdoors) that will air on a major TV network. So sweet of her to help me publicize my book by making the following offer: Cassy asked me to host an episode where I find a breast cancer patient with a really crappy backyard and surprise her on camera with an outdoor makeover, working with “the big green egg people” to paint the big green egg pink.
Big green egg people? I had no idea what she was talking about. I googled it. The big green egg is a very dinosaur like patio-grilling, meat-smoking machine. I was not quite sure which object was the product placement in this episode: the cancer patient or the smoker?
I had more questions: Is it ethical to out someone on TV as a cancer patient without asking their permission first? My answer: No. Does Cassie care if the patient is not in remission, if they have in-home hospice, are gaunt, pallid, frail, and might not make it to spring to actually use the backyard bistro? Cassie’s answer: Wow, how bittersweet, we’d love to help someone like that. And what about health concerns? I’m no Lola-Granola, but even research from the straight-laced, government funded National Cancer Institute shows links between barbecuing and cancer. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are the carcinogenic chemicals formed when barbecuing animal proteins.
I declined the offer. As I snickered at the absurdity and outrage of using cancer patients as the tokens recipients of backyard glitz and glamour, I realized the hypocrisy of my sneer. When I was diagnosed at 27, I dashed off letters to Mac and Sony, portraying myself with the right combo of cancer hip and patient pathetic in hopes of scoring a free laptop or video camera. How can these mega corporations with deep pockets deny a young cancer patient? With a nice little rejection form letter, that’s how. Apparently I wasn’t the only one asking.
So as my last post of Everybody Wants You Week, I ask you:
If a patient ever uses the “cancer card” to get something – gym memberships, video cameras, the ability to use our flashers at the curb instead of parking in the lot – why can’t others use our cancer card to get something too? Is it a fair trade? Is one gifting and the other exploitation? If everybody wants you with a profit motif in mind, is there still a win-win component to it that makes the whole deal kosher? Does this change if the product is carcinogenic, like Estee Lauder products that include ingredients linked to cancer? Or a big green egg? Let me know what you think.