Waiting for Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich and her team are coming to Fridley, Minnesota. Will she give us the answers we need?

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, .  


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 “”.


“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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Nicole johnson May 30, 2012 at 02:37 PM
My thoughts exactly! I have experienced Jason and his group on Facebook. It seems as though when an opinion is posted that does not fit ideally with his, you are shut down and even blocked from the group. It seems to me in his quest for truth the victims of this horrible disease are being forgotten in some ways. We need to spread compassion and awareness for our loved ones and members of this community. Taking a "torch wielding villagers" approach will not get us any closer to finding answers to the many questions that surround cancer.
Amy Reierson May 30, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Beautifully worded. I also after your last blog post stepped back took a look at what I was doing. Cancer in any form is devastating how it happened to each individual person is a story all it's own to every individual and their loved ones. If there are answers to have they will be years in the making. I need to live in the now and like UDahl help the people who need help and support right now not wait for what ifs before action is taken, and I am not just talking about cancer. Life is to short to wait for what ifs and worry about the path others are following.
Wendy Olson May 30, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Mandy, this is a beautiful piece. I admire your ability to express yourself and your thoughts so eloquently and in doing so, you speak to and for so many others. I, too, spent a lot of time and energy being angry and offended by the tone of this Facebook page, challenging the (mis)information being presented, and suggesting that all information out there needs to be considered, even (or especially) if it doesn't support the collective point of view. My sister often says to me, "You can't control other people's actions, but you can control your reactions." My reaction was to step away from the Facebook group. I continue to follow any news about this subject, after all I did grow up in Fridley and still have family living there, but I get updates from other less biased sources now. And I have much more time and energy to be of service to others. Thank you again for another thoughtful blog on this subject!
Mary Jo Theis May 31, 2012 at 07:38 PM
It has been an interesting journey reading the 1st letters to the current. So much division, so much self righeousness so little coming together. All I have ever wanted was someone to say we are worried and sad for the future of our children and grandchildren and we as a caring society will work together to achieve our goal. I want to give my brother and parents an answer. They died of horrible pain during their lifetime of living in Fridley. I want to say no more will we let this happen. Maybe then they can rest in peace and my tears will be no more.
Mandy Meisner June 01, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Mary Jo, Thank you for your comment. I appologize if I sound condescending or presumptuous in my reply, as I do not know you, or your family. But I have listened to your past comments on the Cluster page, as well as at Patch and it is clear to me that you have suffered great loss in your life. It is also clear to me that you have the wear-with-all and compassion to care for ailing loved ones in their final hours. I personally think, that even if there are no "answers" ever found about why they became ill, they are already resting in peace becasue they see your conviction on their behalf. You are their living tribute. I wish you well.
Denise Mooney June 01, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I have alot to say on this but will keep it short. If you think there needs to be a page about support for cancer survivors and their family and friends, then make one. YOU be the leader of that. I think most people open a CaringBridge site to send out personal info and have a way for family and friends to support them. I am sure there are many who would join a Fridley Cancer Support group, that is NOT what the Fridley Cancer Cluster was started for. I have known Jason for a lot of years and he is simply trying to put light on this. I think Jason has done an extraordinary job of putting people who have information that will be useful to Erin and co and the Dept of Health. I just do not understand pointing fingers at him when he has done the heavy lifting here, (with the help of others) and he and his family have dedicated time to this. Seriously, the group was put together to gather information about individuals situations within a particular, fantastic community that I am proud to call my hometown.
Mandy Meisner June 01, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Denise, Thank you for your comments. You are absolutely right, of course. I have always had the option to create a "Fridley Cancer Support" group. I've thought about it, but not too seriously for a couple of reasons. 1) I feel it would only inflate division in my community 2) It would only work if Jason gave (constant) public endorsements and support (which somehow I don't think would happen...). 3) I lack the charisma needed to attract a large group of any relevance (which the FCC already has) I 100% agree with you. Jason has done an extrodinary job at gathering information that will be useful for Erin and her team. And as far as I know, this has been one of the most successful movements (maybe the most) based specifically in Social Media, which speaks to his dedication and influence.
Julie Knutson June 01, 2012 at 11:36 PM
I'd like to add a few comments that follows the thread of what Denise Mooney posted. I think for the most part, for those of us who have dealt with friends and family who are dealing with cancer or have passed away are given the types of resources that you speak of..support groups, grief and loss resources, survivors groups, etc. It comes with the territory when one is diagnosed with a life threatening condition...for the most part. Not all conditions..but for cancer..those resources are abundant. Once a patient is started on treatment, they are given those as part of their ongoing care plan. It's not something that is hidden or hard to find. At this point, the Cluster is seeking answers; it hasn't even gotten to the point where one can think.."ok..now what?" Who knows what will happen or would happen when that moment arrives. Back in 2004 I was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency; I am dying and this is not caused by anything related to this issue; it's strictly genetic and I inherited the genes and now it's slowly destroying my lungs. It's considered rare, which it's not; just rarely diagnosed. It was 3 months before I even spoke to another person with this and it was in another state. When I realized there was nothing available, I started a group; Alpha Loons of MN. I believe and feel if the need was there on the Cluster list; many would have offered that information wholeheartedly & given support when needed. I know I surely would have and will.
Mandy Meisner June 02, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Julie, Thank you for your comments. You make very good points about support services being offered during the process of cancer, all of which are true. I am somewhat aware of your condition (through listening to you on the Cluster page), and I cringe to tell you "I'm sorry" becasue it feels lame and utterly inadquate, although I truly am sorry you are facing this. I wasn't aware of Alpha Loons of MN. I commend you for provding a needful place for others with your condition.
Julie Knutson June 02, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Thanks Mandy; truly. I'm doing very well; attitude, my faith and my support system has a lot to do with that. I only share that because I do know what it's like to be diagnosed with a life threatening condition. It scares the hell out of you. But, you deal with it and make choices about how you are going to go ahead in life. Do you go feeling sorry for yourself or do you fight and do the best you can? I also share this because answers and explanations do help in coping with what you are dealt with. Sometimes it's not the whole answer; but having some sense of why it's happening or has happened does provide the possibility for acceptance and some amount of closure. I think this is why the Cancer Cluster was started, the desire for more information, for the possibility of some answers not only for those afflicted now, but for those that continue to live in Fridley. I think I can safely say that we wouldn't wish this on our worst enemy so to speak. Seeking answers and having questions will better protect the future of the people that live or will live in Fridley. Bottom line is; we do care for our hometown and those that continue to live there.
Mandy Meisner June 03, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Julie, I am glad you shared your illness, because it's a part of who you are. Just as my "hero" and "heroine" of this blog, (UDahl and his loved one) you too are an example of a life well lived (because your choices have purpose & give hope to others)-- whatever circumstances life has given you. Just because I don't agree with everything that goes on in the Cluster, doesn't mean I don't respect the work, and intentions that is its' core. I do. Honestly, to have this exchange wtih you, who is an active member of the Cluster, which has been fair and intelligent, is more than I had hoped for out of this blog. If I showed you my original blog now, I'd be embaressed. It really was a fine example of pompousness. UDalh's post made at midnight, probably sitting in a dark hospital room somewhere, really made me stop to think. About the bigger picture. While I clearly have my opinions about certain areas, it's not about wanting to derail your/their efforts. I support your goals. It's a Grassroots movement, with Grassroots ideologies, I get that. I respect that everyone is entitled to their own opionions and methods. Genuinely. I thank you for your conversation.
Julie Knutson June 03, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Thank you too:) It wasn't my intention to say you didn't...the blog got me thinking as well from a different perspective. Just sharing the thoughts I came up with. No one can expect all to agree. I welcome the sharing of thoughts, feelings and ideas; it's how one grows and becomes more enlightened. I've enjoyed this as well.
Mandy Meisner June 04, 2012 at 01:31 AM
I did sound a bit defensive there, didn't I? Sorry about that. Julie, I can't tell you how pleased I am right now!! I feel like the Social Media gods have smiled down at us. To have a respectful and meaningful conversation between the two of us, definately brings me hope that others can too. Which is all I ever wanted out of this blog. And I think we're in "the clear" of not having anyone else step in now to change the tone of this wonderful exchange : D Thank you, thank you for being the one to reach out and "hold my hand". I wish you the best, and hope our paths cross someday under happier occasions.
Mary Jo Theis June 04, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Mandy, Thank you! By your acknowledging people's personal sorrows you are giving hope to many people that we can work together to make changes. That seems to be the underlying issue here. Support groups are helpful for some . For others it is simple understanding, compassion and nonjudgement . You reflect these qualities and I respect you for that. Thank you again for your kind words. May we all come together.
PK June 20, 2012 at 05:46 PM
'Our world and our lives have become increasingly interdependent, so when our neighbour is harmed, it affects us too. Therefore we have to abandon outdated notions of “them” and “us” and think of our world much more in terms of a great “US”, a greater human family.' ~ Dalai Lama


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