If you were given the chance to fulfill one wish before you died, what would you do? Would you tackle a career goal, or maybe meet a celebrity? Would you do something that had a lasting impact on the world, or make people laugh and smile? Meet comedian Quincy Jones who just checked each of those boxes last night when he fulfilled his "dying wish" and taped a one-hour comedy special at the Telegram Ballroom in Los Angeles. Quincy, age 32, has stage 4 mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, and has been given only months to live.
"I am beyond excited to film my first of what I hope to be many more HBO specials. It is an honor and I am very blessed and can't wait to see it air," said Quincy in a recent interview.
It was just this February, after we finished the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization's (ADAO) 9th Congressional Staff Briefing in Washington, DC, when a text from Jordan Zevon, ADAO National Spokesperson, lit up my phone and shared Quincy's story. "Call Quincy, maybe we can help him." Jordan had seen his Kickstarter campaign, "Comedian Dying of Cancer Hopes to Make a Stand-Up Special" and was moved.
After connecting via email, I had the pleasure of meeting and watching Quincy perform in Los Angeles. His talent runs deep, and so does his motivation to raise awareness about asbestos. As we chatted, he too was very shocked, confused and hurt as to why asbestos has not been banned in the United States. Chills ran down my spine as Quincy shared the July 2015 tape-recording of his doctor telling him he had mesothelioma.
Quincy's Kickstarter campaign caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who invited him to appear on her show as a guest. Unbeknownst to him, Ellen generously donated to his campaign, and also worked her magic with HBO to ink a deal to air the taping of his show. In just a few weeks, Quincy's Kickstarter campaign nearly quadrupled the fundraising goal. Quincy raised more than just funds for his comedy special, he also raised awareness about asbestos and mesothelioma.
The timing could not have been better as April 1-7 is Global Asbestos Awareness Week -- the week that ADAO commits to increasing awareness of asbestos and preventing exposure by bringing together experts and victims from around the world to share, learn, and take action. Day Three of Global Asbestos Awareness Week 2016 is dedicated to Quincy and his fight to battle mesothelioma and educate others. While there is nothing funny about asbestos or the diseases it causes, I know Quincy's special will drive awareness to new heights. We dedicate today to Quincy and our common fight to raise awareness.
Quincy notes, "I'm honored to even have a day in this amazing informative week... I say go get informed and write to your politicians and ask why are we still using this deadly material?"
Since the 19th century, asbestos was widely used in construction, shipbuilding, and the automotive industry. Without a ban, asbestos remains legal in the USA and nearly 70 percent of the world, and mining and use continues. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), each year up to 15,000 Americans die from asbestos-caused diseases.
These deaths are preventable, but we have to educate the public about asbestos and motivate our elected officials to take action to protect American families.
Awareness and action are hugely important when it comes to battling asbestos diseases. While promising research continues, preventing exposure to asbestos remains the only cure for mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases. Most people know that asbestos is deadly, but few know where asbestos may be present in our homes, workplaces, and schools and even fewer know how to manage the risks.
The World Health Organization estimates:
• "About 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace.
• "More than 107 000 deaths each year are attributable to occupational exposure to asbestos."
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) annually reports the national and international mining and use. Regardless of the facts, the USA still imports asbestos, as we are "dependent on imports to meet manufacturing needs." In 2015, USGS reported "asbestos consumption in the United States was estimated to be about 360 tons."
Taking education to the streets, the digital streets.
Building on strength and collaboration, this year's Global Asbestos Awareness Week will focus on banning the mining, manufacturing, and use of asbestos; preventing asbestos exposure; and increasing compliance and enforcement of existing laws and regulation. This year's campaign highlighted influencers, experts, and allies featuring, facts, art, movies, and more from all around the world. By embracing technology, social networks, and mixed media, we aim to expand our reach worldwide to raise awareness for asbestos-caused diseases.
It is exciting to see the global community unite and collaborate for Global Asbestos Awareness Week because as Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak shared, "The asbestos issue is not a thing of the past. It continues to this day." The work we are doing today will continue to save lives throughout the future.
Last night, every seat in the house was filled when Quincy performed. His comedic talent, affable personality, and personal story won over the audience in the theatre and countless more people rooting for him across the country. His story and his efforts to increase awareness about asbestos will resonate beyond Global Asbestos Awareness Week. He is part of the continuation of a century old social movement.
Join Quincy, me, and the entire ADAO community as we work to save lives through awareness and prevention. Together, we can succeed in protecting families and ensuring that laughter is not silenced by preventable asbestos diseases.