Erin Brockovich and her team are coming to Fridley, Minnesota. Will she give us the answers we need?
ques·tion (kwes-chuhn) noun 1. a sentence in an interrogative form, addressed to someone in order to get information in reply. 2. a problem for discussion or under discussion; a matter for investigation. 3. a matter of some uncertainty or difficulty; problem 4. a subject of dispute or controversy. 5. a proposal to be debated or voted on, as in a meeting or a deliberative assembly.
Originally, I had a well-constructed and very detailed blog put together. It was a strong opinion piece about my unease, judgment and disappointment about the Fridley Cancer Cluster.
As my personal disdain has continued to grow for the tone of certain voices there, I decided I would work on a real “the gloves are coming off” segment. A less diplomatic and highly passionate sequel to my past cancer blog, Cancer Comes to Fridley.
It presented several quotes from Jason McCarty highlighting inaccurate statements. Rocks he has lain down that I would turn over one by one, to smugly expose the worms underneath. It also contained a plethora of facts, various charts, impressive studies and links to great information given by respected experts.
All the things needed to burnish my weapon of intelligence, to make it gleam in righteousness, and would dazzle you with its brilliance.
It also talked a lot about Erin Brockovich coming to town. What her answers might mean, and why. That whatever was in her suitcase wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, the end to it all.
But then, something happened.
I’m a person that truly believes things happen, or are revealed to me, for a reason. That reason has always been my opportunity to grow, become better. I have engaged in some conversations on various articles in Fridley Patch about this Cancer topic. I’d like to share one that has moved me more than any of the others, posted by a “UDahl”.
“Romper, stomper, bomper, boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me who?
"ALL of you should be ashamed of the biting each others tails that you have been displaying -- patch or facebook -- no matter. As I watch my girlfriend suffer through her illness, she never points fingers or gets argumentative but simply wants to spread joy and hope. How many of you here that are "cancerously" defending your "opinions" or "facts" care to think about how much anxiety you are placing on those running a race against cancer and just simply want to save other lives with answers and not speculation or bickering. Take a break from hostility and hold hands will you? PS. Look in the magic mirror if you can and say 'I see Hope'."
This is a truth that speaks to me.
Recently, my spouse has questioned why I am so concerned about this Cluster, as my private conversations have expressed my utter frustration for them. Who cares?! he asks. I argue that they are a large, influential group and the feelings of alarm, their misinformation and fear mongering are “spreading." I have had such visceral reactions to some of their posts, how can I not say something…?
I realize after UDahl’s post that I should be taking the advice I often give to my children: “You can’t control what other people do in the world. Just worry about yourself and make sure yourself, is what you want to be.”
My own ego and perspective, combined with the heady gift of a medium to tout whatever “brilliant” doctrine I claim as my own, has gotten in the way of what this story should really be about.
This story should be about people like UDahl’s girlfriend, who I imagine is often lying weakly in a bed somewhere, delicate in body, covers pulled to her chin. Whatever the reasons for the bad cards she has been dealt, she meets them with strength of spirit and purity of heart. Her struggle for health, for me, has become not a point to be won with others, but a demonstration of beauty, and an example of a life well lived.
I now pause with humility to change course a bit, and reflect on my own motivations. I have kept some of my opinion pieces I feel most strongly about, and my conclusion has remained untouched. But essentially, this blog post has been wiped clean.
I end with a fragment of a blog post I once took great pride in building. Nothing is left but a small shard of the massive tool I was going to wield with my own kind of arrogance, to cut my points with precision.
So instead, I end it with the thoughts of a girl I have never met, who has inspired me to see a larger picture, beyond my points and myself, who I imagine is lying weakly in a bed somewhere, delicate in body, covers pulled up to her chin, radiating beauty to the world, and choosing to live well.
I thank her for giving me, my “perfect” answer.
Jason has displayed many qualities I deeply admire. His passion for the pursuit of truth, his energy to organize a movement that has created action from others, and his courage to speak up for what he believes is the right thing to do. If these admired qualities were tempered with open mindedness to others, respect and recognition given to all the experts in this field (even when they give him data he doesn’t agree with) an analytical mind, and a little humanity to the hundreds of cancer warriors that have shared their stories, he would have had a strong lieutenant, in me.
Jason is the founder of the Cluster group, and is therefore considered their leader, and rightly so. He is. He sets the tone, and gives direction. But, to only want to ask questions without any thought to follow through as to how those questions will affect (thousands) of people and their lives, I find irresponsible. This is not true leadership, this is pot-stirring.
The thing I am most disappointed with, is it appears Jason has no intention of adding any outreach. Since my entreaty of my last Cancer blog, he hasn’t directed one person to resources of help or support. Instead, he continues to use the page as a funnel to build a case. Anything that falls outside of these parameters, he states “is not what this group is for.”
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see the value in, and providing, help for others who have clearly been damaged by cancer. I understand he needs to spend copious amounts of time dedicated to this cause. I respect that. But would it be that difficult to designate someone else to this (outreach) role, so that he may continue to focus on his work?
As a leader to an independent movement, he has every right to pursue his goals, in any way he chooses. And he has clearly chosen.
In my opinion, Jason is squandering a rare opportunity to expand on his original goals of “asking the questions and looking for answers.” He is missing out on a chance to guide his group to be of service to others, instead of victims in wait.
Most likely, the answers Erin will be able to provide when she comes to town will merely be the gateway to more questions. What triggers cancer in people continues to be a medical mystery. A blend of environmental exposure, individual genetic make-up, and lifestyle choices create almost incalculable variations.
I suggest that Jason comes up with some sort of exit plan to what comes next for this group after Erin leaves. Or at least, a “next step.” To assume her contributions will be a neat package of answers that will magically close the lid on this case is unrealistic.
Whatever my disagreements with Jason McCarty, I also recognize the work and dedication he and the team of Erin Brockovich have, and will continue to put into this issue. I will be listening to Erin’s presentation respectfully and with an open mind, as I have with the others before her.
I am taking my own advice though, and will be implementing my exit plan now. This will be my last blog post on this topic. Anything more from me is really just more noise to an issue that is already plenty loud.
In the end, I’ve decided that we are not very different from one another. We are all seeking the truth, and we base our truths on the answers we accept.
The problem with answers, are that most of the time, they aren’t complete. And they are rarely perfect. The perfect answers are the ones that speak to both our hearts and our minds in equal measure. They give us peace, understanding and a glimpse to enlightenment. Not strife, ignorance and contempt for others.
And sometimes, there just aren't any answers in life at all. … It's how we choose to face the unanswerable that shape our character, and can allow us grace.
I wish you all, your own perfect answers.
an·swer (an-ser) noun 1. a spoken or written reply or response to a question, request, letter, etc.. 2. a correct response to a question asked to test one's knowledge. 3. an equivalent or approximation: a singing group that tried to be the French answer to the Beatles. 4. an action serving as a reply or response. 5. a solution to a problem, especially in mathematics.