April 29, 2009

Cancer and The Environment


As a teenager I made out in abandoned factories, where mysterious steel drums leaked on the floors and industrial grime came in all colors and textures. I guess high schoolers in farm country drink Boonsebury and go cow tipping, but in Pittsburgh, we smoked pot on slag heaps.

Did growing up amid Pittsburgh’s steel town relics contributed to my cancer? And more importantly, how do I reducing my current exposure to carcinogens. This is the subject of my guest post featured yesterday on Blue Planet Green Living.

Survivors and healthy folks alike are focusing heavily on how to be more green, but going green is not just a consumer lifestyle trend; it is a public health issue that will never be solved one eco-purchase or CFL at a time.

Let’s face it, shopping for organic sheets at Bed Bath and Beyond is way more seductive than educating ourselves about coal fire power plants or vehicle emissions standards. But buying more crap – even if it is eco-organic crap still makes a negative impact on the environment. As young adult cancer patients, often with low incomes and medical debt, we are better off resisting most eco-marketing and buying less in general.

Indoor air quality is a major health issue and choices about the chemicals we eat and wear are important. But as a cancer patient, I’ve gotta look beyond my consumer habits and stop ignoring the big enviro-elephants. My eco lip gloss does not matter if toxic power plant emissions are drifting in the wind.

Do you think something in your environment when you were a kid caused your illness? Are eco-products affordable for your budget along side healthcare costs? How do you decide what to buy? Are you enticed by beautiful, hip, enviro marketing? Do you know what a coal fire power plant is? Is environmental policy interesting to you, a bore, does it matter?

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April 09, 2009

Catch Me in Pittsburgh and More…


A few years ago I met a Hodgkin’s patient in his art studio in a semi-vacant floor of a university lecture hall. He made sculptures: incredible little models of buildings and sleek sound and light pieces. Rick Gribenas’ mind was intricate too – he excelled at looking at cancer from unusual perspectives that went against the grain in thoughtful and subtle ways. His quotes about survival, statistics, and the labor of cancer are studded throughout my book. Also check out his eloquent words about cancer and the war analogy.

On the Pittsburgh leg of my book tour, I will be attending and speaking at an event in honor of Rick Gribenas . To my recent shock, I learned that Rick died less than a month ago. This benefit originally intended to support his medical bills will now be a celebration of his life and donations will go directly to his wife Charissa to help with medical and funeral costs.

It is easy for us in the cancer community to celebrate life, but how do we celebrate someone after they have died? I think we shy away from this a bit, as it is hard to be reminded of our own mortality when we are in the think of cancer ourselves. I believe we need to challenge ourselves to think beyond our own circumstances and to support the families of young cancer patients who are coping with loss. I hope you’ll join me in doing this and have a hell of a lot of fun while we are at it!

Saturday, April 11

6 pm going late
Modern Formations Gallery
4919 Penn Ave., Garfield
Music ranging from acoustic indie-pop to melodic punk
Donation $5 to $15 to benefit his family

Have you been close to a young adult cancer patient who has died? What was it like for you? How did their other friends, family, and colleagues respond to their death? If you live near Pittsburgh, can I count on seeing you on Saturday night?

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