Posts tagged with "survivor"

Handcuff illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Facebook × Child Predators

SURVIVOR OF FACEBOOK-FACILITATED CHILD PREDATOR ABUSE TELLS SHAREHOLDERS TO “DELAY END-TO-END ENCRYPTION” UNTIL PLATFORM CAN ADEQUATELY PROTECT CHILDREN

Searing Testimony Shows Danger Facebook Poses to Young Children and How Ill-Conceived Steps Justified on Privacy Grounds Would Only Hurt More Children.

A survivor of child abuse and exploitation who was approached on a Facebook platform urged shareholders today at the company’s annual meeting to delay plans to move ahead with end-to-end encryption that would see Facebook “become one of the world’s most dangerous ’playgrounds’ for children.”

That warning was delivered today by Sarah Cooper, who was approached as a teenager through Facebook Messenger, met a predator in Boston and New York City, and was sold into sex slavery.

The following is Sarah Cooper’s full statement: 

“My name is Sarah Cooper and I am a member of the Survivor’s Council of ECPAT-USA, the leading anti-child trafficking organization in the United States.

I am here this morning to present resolution #6 asking the Board to report on the risk of increased sexual exploitation of children as the Company develops and offers additional privacy tools such as end-to-end encryption.

One year ago, I told my personal story publicly for the first time, of being groomed and trafficked by a predator that I met on Facebook. He seemed to be my age but was actually decades older. I was groomed starting when I was 15 until just after my 18th birthday. It seemed innocent enough at the beginning. I received a Facebook friend request from someone I didn’t know.  

We exchanged messages back and forth and after some time I sent photos to my predator, then more images to him. He groomed me for over two years.   I thought he was a friend, someone I could trust. I didn’t really know anything was wrong until I met him in person, and saw his face, I finally realized he was closer to 40 than 18.  Once I stepped into his car it was too late… When I was trafficked, given drugs, sold into sex slavery and held against my will at gunpoint… my instinct was to survive.  I was lucky enough to have been rescued by a friend and thankfully survived my ordeal, some are not as lucky and never make it home.

For years, I was unaware of the dangers lurking on the internet, until I myself became a target.  Today, as an advocate working to prevent child sex trafficking, I’ve come to understand that law enforcement in the field relies extensively on tips from Facebook to bring predators to justice.  But what will happen when you go to end to end encryption on the Messenger app? 

Facebook admitted that in going forward with implementing end-to-end encryption it will not be able to see child sexual abuse materials online, and the number of these reports will go down.  Therefore, the number of children’s lives that could be saved or helped, will be less.

Facebook made nearly 21 million reports of child sexual materials last year, and it has been estimated that 75% of these will become invisible once it applies end-to end encryption.

Those reports are not just ‘reports’ – they are children. Children who are scared and hurt, children who need our help, children who believe Facebook would never hurt them. They are someone’s daughter, sister, grandchild and neighbor. 

Facebook needs to immediately improve age verification, increase human monitoring of content, work in tighter cooperation with law enforcement – and it should absolutely delay expanding encryption on its platforms until it can protect children.

Privacy is important, but we need a balance of privacy and protection of the most vulnerable members of society, our children.  

Facebook is a great platform, but it is not a safe platform. And with encryption it will become one of the world’s most dangerous ’playgrounds’ for children.

Thank you.”

Ms. Cooper spoke in favor of Proposal 6 at the Facebook annual meeting, which calls on Facebook to conduct a study of its central role in online child abuse and  “assessing the risk of increased sexual exploitation of children as the Company develops and offers additional privacy tools such as end-to-end encryption.”  The resolution was filed by Proxy Impact, Lisette Cooper, the Maryknoll Sisters, the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, NJ, and the Stardust Fund. In 2020, the same resolution attracted the support of 43 percent of non-management shares of the company that is tightly controlled by Mark Zuckerberg.

How bad is the child abuse and exploitation problem at Facebook? And how much worse could it get? 

Demi Lovato illustration by Kaelen Felix for use by 360 Magazine

DEMI LOVATO – “DANCING WITH THE DEVIL” MUSIC VIDEO EASTER EGGS

DEMI LOVATO GOES BEHIND THE SCENES OF “DANCING WITH THE DEVIL” MUSIC VIDEO EXCLUSIVELY FOR VEVO FOOTNOTES

“Its a really important reminder of everything that Ive overcome, and that Im stronger and more in control of my life than ever.”

– Demi Lovato

23 HIDDEN EASTER EGGS WITHIN THE MUSIC VIDEO REVEALED

Global superstar Demi Lovato and her team of collaborators behind the new “Dancing With The Devil” music video have partnered with Vevo to reveal hidden messages and everything you didn’t know about the video’s creation process exclusively for Vevo Footnotes.

WATCH THE MAKING OF “DANCING WITH THE DEVIL” VEVO FOOTNOTES

“Dancing With The Devil” appears on Lovato’s newest album, Dancing With The Devil… The Art Of Starting Over.

The music video’s co-director, Michael D. Ratner, details their commitment to ensuring each frame has meaning and matches Lovato’s reality, and that production runs smoothly so she wouldn’t have to relive each scene multiple times.

A digital XR stage was used to take viewers through Lovato’s experience, which also created a sense of photographic memory to convey her re-telling of the moments before her overdose. Everything from the cast members t-shirts to hairstyles and color are accurate in this artistic reenactment of Lovato’s most trying times.

Below is a complete outline of “The Making of “Dancing With The Devil’ | Vevo Footnotes, including key insight from the music video’s executive director and more from Lovato herself.

FOOTNOTES OUTLINE:

0:16 Narration: ”Dancing With The Devil” is the second video from Demi Lovato’s seventh studio album, Dancing With The Devil…The Art Of Starting Over. Both the video and doc directly address Demi’s near-fatal overdose in July 2018 as well as her road to recovery.

0:31 Demi co-directed the video with Michael D. Ratner, who also helmed the documentary. Miranda Sherman was the video’s Executive Producer.

0:39 Miranda Sherman: ”The documentary was really important preparation for this project. We had time to really understand and unpack the story – get the full scope of it. In the actual creation of the music video, we’re telling the literal story but also communicating visually the feeling of that night.”

0:59 Demi Lovato: ”There’s something really cathartic and healing about being able to address trauma through art for me.”

1:09 Narration: The video took two days to film but the preparation took six months.

1:13 Michael D. Ratner: ”Our commitment to telling this story with care really started with the process. At every stage of pre-production–from overall concept to shot-listing to storyboarding to blocking camera movements–we checked in with Demi and her team stayed honest and created a space of autonomy and empowerment.”

1:36 Narration: Demi wore this “Legalize Marijuana’ t-shirt because it’s similar to the one she actually wore on the night of her overdose. The bedroom scene was the last shot of the day, and the toughest scene for Demi to film. The camera movement required a techno-crane. The team rehearsed endlessly so that Demi didn’t have to go through the scene multiple times.

2:00 Michael D. Ratner: ”There are no accidents in this video. From where people are facing to what they bring into frame, or where they are in frame, everything is thought through and has meaning. Demi has 23 tattoos and there are 23 easter eggs in the video.”

2:20 Michael D. Ratner: ”The video is in no way glorifying drinking or drug use. Quite the opposite, and that’s why there’s that constant chilling reminder of the hospital bed, which is symbolic of the scary possibility that the danger of addiction is very real and very present.”

2:38 Narration: In order to cover so many locations and emotions, they used a digital XR stage to take the viewer through Demi’s experience, which also created a sense of photographic memory to convey Demi’s re-telling of the night before and morning of her overdose.

2:53 Many of Demi’s friends and family appear in the documentary, but for this video, actors were used to represent them. Their faces are deliberately hidden.

2:59 Demi Lovato: ”When recreating the night before my overdose some of the actors are wearing clothing to match some of my friends who were there, including Dani Vitale’s white tank top, which is seen in the documentary’s archival footage. In the scene where I’m surrounded by family in the hospital, one of the actresses has hair the same color as my sister Dallas in 2018.”

3:20 Narration: Ratner and his team made specific technical choices with the goal of helping viewers understand the feeling of falling into addiction, drug abuse, overdose, and recovery. Demi’s case manager was on set during the filming of the video. Before filming began, Ratner worked with him to ensure the shoot was a safe space for her and she was as comfortable as possible.

3:50 Demi Lovato: ”At the beginning of the video, the diffused effect of the kaleidoscopic light on the glass mirrors mimic the blurry feeling of using drugs and indicated the start of this dangerous journey. The last shot of the video reveals the disco ball spinning over the hospital bed and serves as an eerie reminder that the challenge of addiction is persistent and recovery is an ongoing process.”

4:09 Narration: Demi got this “survivor’ tattoo in 2019. It covers the scar from where her dialysis port was.

4:15 Demi Lovato: ”It’s a really important reminder of everything that I’ve overcome, and that I’m stronger and more in control of my life than ever.”

ABOUT VEVO:

Vevo is the world’s leading music video network, connecting an ever-growing global audience to high quality music video content for more than a decade. Founded by Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment in 2009, Vevo offers fans worldwide a vast array of premium content to choose from, showcasing official music videos alongside a constantly developing lineup of live performances and innovative original programming. From top superstars to rising new talents, Vevo brings incomparable cross-promotional support to artists across the musical spectrum, at every stage of their careers.

Vevo has consistently evolved over the past decade to lead within today’s ever-changing media landscape, embracing partnerships with a number of leading distribution platforms to deliver extraordinary content within ad-supported environments. With more than 26B views across television, desktop and mobile devices each month, Vevo brings music videos to the world when, where, and how fans want them.

Vevo is available on YouTube, Samsung, Samsung TV Plus, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Echo Show, PlutoTV, Apple TV, Roku, Comcast (Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex), VIZIO, Sky (NowTV and SkyQ), Foxxum, XITE, NetRange, Redbox, T-Mobile Play, Virgin Media, Xumo, Telstra and Vewd.

End Gun Violence illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Boulder Shooter Kills Ten People

Colorado Supermarket Mass Shooting:

Gunman kills 10, including police officer

The series of mass shootings have continued within the United States, this time in Boulder Colorado at 3600 Table Mesa Drive. A gunman killed 10 people at a King Soopers supermarket on Monday afternoon. One of the victims included police officer Eric Talley who was first on the scene. Officer Talley was first to respond to report of gunfire at the grocery store. The workers and shoppers that survived were able to flee the scene and others were able to take shelter within the store – enduring the horrific violence that echoed throughout the store.

The shooting started shortly after 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot of King Soopers. Videographer Dean Schiller provided a livestream video showing what appears to be victims and an employee saying the shooter was inside of the store. Two roommates commented that “he just came in and started shooting” without saying a word. They went on to note that the gunman “let off a couple of shots, then was silent, and then he let off a couple more – He wasn’t spraying.”.

Survivor Ryan Borowski commented to CNN’s Don Lemon that he was still processing what happened. Borowski had just gone to buy some ice cream at the grocery store. He had changed his mind at the last minute and went down a different aisle. Borowski then heard the first gunshots, which he then started running to the back of the store. Borowski and several others rushed out of the store through the back, telling employees “Gun, gun, gun. Run, run, run.” Borowski went on to comment “I don’t remember anybody screaming. It was just go, go, go, get out of here… I knew I had to move.”.

Steven McHugh commented that his son-in-law and his two granddaughters were in the store as their dad got the vaccination for Covid-19. McHugh was told that his family watched people get shot and managed to run to a staff area to hide in a coat closet until police were able to intervene.

The 21-year-old suspect, Ahmad Al Issa, was taken into custody and treated for injuries, however, there are not many answers as to why the violent crime was carried out. Issa is facing 10 counts of first-degree murder and will be taken to Boulder County Jail. Officials say it will take days to investigate the crime scene thoroughly and notify families of the loss of their loved ones. Local, state, and federal agencies responded to the scene to aid in the investigation.

Officer Eric Talley had been with the department since 2010 and was very passionate about his job according to Officer Mark Bliley, head of the Boulder Police Department’s union. Bliley continued to say that Talley had a unique ability to connect with people; that he was a highly respected, well-loved person and officer – a solid person that everyone loved.

Kelli McGannon, King Soopers spokeswoman, said the company is working with investigators and will be deferring to law enforcement on all inquiries about the shooting. “Our hearts are broken over this senseless act of violence,” she said.

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords commented “It’s beyond time for our leaders to take action” on gun control. Giffords is a gun control advocate and mass shooting survivor. She went on to comment that “This is not normal, and it doesn’t have to be this way. This is an especially personal tragedy for me. I survived a shooting at a grocery store, in a tragedy that devastated my beloved community of Tucson. It’s been 10 years, and countless American communities have had to face something similar. Today it’s a tragedy in Boulder, Colorado. This past weekend it was a house party in Philadelphia. And last week it was an armed attack on Asian American women in the Atlanta area.”

The supermarket shooting occurred just seven days after the violent mass shooting in Atlanta where eight innocent people, including six Asian women, were killed when a gunman terrorized three spas. On March 17, five people were gunned down in a drive-by shooting while preparing a vigil in Stockton, California. Just a day later, four victims were shot in Gresham, Oregon. In Houston, five people were shot within a club during a disturbance on March 20. In Philadelphia, five people were injured and one murdered during a shooting at a party on the same day.

The Colorado Healing Fund is collecting donations for victims of the Boulder shooting. The Colorado Healing Fund is a non-profit organization created to support victims of mass tragedies.

Victims of the King Sooper’s Mass Shooting:

  • Denny Strong, 20 years old
  • Neven Stoanisic, 23 years old
  • Rikki Olds, 25 years old
  • Tralona Bartkowiak, 49 years old
  • Suzanne Fountain, 59 years old
  • Teri Leiker, 51 years old
  • Officer Eric Talley, 51 years old
  • Kevin Mahoney, 61 years old
  • Lynn Murray, 62 years old
  • Jody Waters, 65 years old
Kaelen Felix illustrates article for 360 MAGAZINE

Finding New Light

by Sonya Keshwani, two year breast cancer survivor & founder of StyleEsteem Wardrobe

There are many things no one tells you about getting diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 years old. How you will meet physical limits you didn’t know existed, and then keep pushing beyond them. How your entire identity – past, present and future – will be viewed through the lens of your diagnosis. And how the diagnosis and healing process are much more challenging and tough than pinkwashed TV commercials would have you believe. 

Through all these instances, every cancer patient experiences moments when they have to make a decision to either see themselves as a continuous human being experiencing cancer and healing, or as a new person who is living a second chance life. I saw a third option for myself. I decided that the person who was going to be a “survivor” deserved to wear her challenges as beautiful accomplishments, while also appreciating the fullness of her new life. 

Since a young age, fashion had been a medium for expressing my joy and vibrancy. So when I lost my hair to chemo, I channeled that same approach into the creation of fashionable turbans. Through the lens of beautiful fabrics and patterns, I learned that challenging situations are wrought with beauty and sparkle. I started the shift from seeing my bald head as a symbol of cancer, to seeing myself – my true character and strength – as beyond skin deep.  I went from creating new styles between chemo sessions, to launching a company that empowers women through cancer and hair loss, called StyleEsteem Wardrobe. This company and the mission to help others became my “why” on the path to healing.

One of the greatest blessings of my “why” is how it has enabled me to connect with other profound individuals and organizations on a similar mission – to improve and empower the quality of life for cancer patients. Earlier this year, my “why” brought me to A Silver Lining Foundation gala in Chicago, where I met Twist Out Cancer Advisory Board Member Gudrun Wu Snyder. We instantly connected as she told me about Twist Out Cancer, a place where cancer patients’ stories are turned into inspirational works of art. Their mission and the story of their founder, Jenna Benn Shersher, spoke to me like a glittering beacon of hope, similar to the one that inspired me during the creation of StyleEsteem. Right away, I knew I wanted to get involved, so Gudrun encouraged me to apply to the Brushes with Cancer program. 

When I was selected as an inspiration for the Brushes with Cancer 2020 Chicago cohort, it was an emotional experience for me. Like we are told when we are young “you can be anything you want to be when you grow up”, I similarly told myself this as a cancer patient. That I could be anything through cancer – inspirational, fashionable, fierce and graceful. Two years into my survivorship, what I had told myself in my heart was being amplified by others in my community, and this alone was such a powerful experience for me. 

My pairing with my artist, Sujata Gazder, a talented, intuitive and bold fashion designer, couldn’t have been more perfect. She saw beneath the surface of my diagnosis, into a story of family unity, broken stereotypes, and audacious hope. She saw my diagnosis as a catalyst for taking back control of my joy and my purpose in life. And we both agreed that hair loss was not loss entirely, it was the adornment of something new and beautiful in my life. 

Due to the pandemic, as well as Sujata being based out of Chicago and me being based out of New York, creating the final masterpiece had unique requirements from each of us. Phone catch ups, Zoom fittings, and photo sneak peeks of her work in progress.  The dress beautifully and perfectly honored each element of my survivorship, from my hair journey and attitude, to my family and spiritual roots. I was amazed at how Sujata could create something I so deeply connected with after knowing me for such a short period of time. 

Outside of my experience with Sujata, being part of this cohort has bonded me with countless other individuals who found their own path to beauty through the darkness of diagnosis. I am proud to stand among them as a survivor and a supporter. And I am so grateful for this space where our stories are transformed into inspiring works of art and unforgettable experiences.

Today I look forward to our virtual gala where we will celebrate each other’s stories, and to seeing my gown in person for the first time when I meet Sujata. This process has taught me that diagnosis is like a crystal. Whoever is holding your crystal in their hands can see new beauty, color and light in your story. And when you exercise vulnerability and trust to let that happen, you can find new meaning and purpose in your own path.

Book illustration

The Stranglehold Series

By Katherine Jeffries

Lenient and non-existent criminal sentences have given rise to movements such as #metoo, #yesallwomen, #whyididntreport, #protecteverychild, #endmodernslavery, #blacklivesmatter to name a only a few. The growing unrest of a rigged justice system is rightly being met with a “burn it down” sentiment.

The Stranglehold Series was inspired by the very frustrations and inequalities we, as a country, are currently attempting to voice and rectify. While the BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as others, focuses on horridly heavy-handed punishments, even deadly uses of force for petty detainments of people of color, Stranglehold was birthed from the growing disgust of certain privileged offenders getting little-to-no consequence for acts so inhumane that most people cannot process the monstrous details.

We have privileged perpetrators such as Brock Turner, who, in 2016, brutally assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Even with witnesses to the heinousness of his attack, he got little to no punishment for the various and twisted injuries he inflicted. Not a year later, the #metoo movement against prominent men who assault women and men alike went viral. Because of public outcry and the bravery of those willing to share their stories in solidarity, some semblance of justice is beginning. More recently, in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, actual video evidence of the murder did not result in the arrest of the killers until that footage was made public months later, demonstrating that if you are well-connected, you could commit the coldest atrocities and skate back into life-as-usual—so long as someone is incentivized enough to keep your secret.

These kinds of non-existent or delayed sentences doled out by those in the criminal justice system who don’t want to “ruin” the lives of predators has only emboldened some institutions into not only hiding those who commit certain crimes, but also continue to allow perpetrators access to more victims (as we’ve seen with the Catholic and Mormon churches, to name only a few). Despite complaints and investigations filed, some organizations even reward and promote harassers, as we’re discovering with the military and hundreds of women being demoted or discharged for reporting while their attacker is unscathed, such as the recent and upsetting murder of Vanessa Guillan.

Much of the same issues are at play in the society in my thriller series, Stranglehold. Unknown US politicians are funneling money into legal organizations set to keep violent, even sadistic criminals on the streets, all in hopes of growing government power in the name of “safety.” Although I’d quickly condemn anyone enacting vigilante justice against any suspect or convict, Stranglehold does offer a satisfying outlet as Grant Steele, Gemma Pearl and Trent Roth deliver swift and ruthless deaths to those who find pleasure or triumph in the pain of the innocent.

That said, Stranglehold isn’t a typical bang-bang-you’re-dead thriller. After all, Gemma Pearl can hear—down to the word—if someone is lying. That she can decide—on the spot—who is guilty isn’t the sole determiner, it sure helps them focus on who’s a threat and find what they need to decide who lives and dies. (In our current political climate, how handy would it be to have not only a sign-language interpreter sharing the stage with any given talking-head, but someone like Gemma calling bullshit. Not sure it would change much, but it would add some comedy to it all).

Beyond that aspect of magic realism, which allows for many polite phrases and the motives behind them to have moments of examination (imagine being around someone who knows every little white lie you tell—every.single.one), Stranglehold takes on the emotional toll trauma exacts. After all, Gemma Pearl isn’t only an assassin, but a woman who has endured years of isolation, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband. The two of them were corralled into their marriage for the sake of Gemma’s safety, which inspires Gemma to ask, “Safe from who?” After Gemma murders her husband and while under Grant and Trent’s protection, Gemma is allowed to unearth and begin to unravel the trauma she’s not only endured, but also caused.

Most thrillers don’t attempt to unpack the damage done to their characters, portraying them instead as revenge-driven-until-revenge-satisfied. Stranglehold is far more thoughtful than that and readers who have survived abuse and trauma deserve a character who is strong, graceful and vulnerable at once. Trauma survivors have earned a character who is wounded but wanting more for herself, who is writhing out form beneath the feelings of unworthiness and invisibility abuse causes, who is learning to voice her hopes and carefully venture back into trust and love with someone who is just as embattled, just as scarred, just as determined to be healed as she is.

As a society, as a world, we have a long way to go, but with the discussions in Stranglehold about punishment, honesty, government roles and trauma healing, we can hopefully step into deeper interactions with ourselves as we heal and with each other as we demand a better system of actual justice.

Esophageal Cancer Awareness

April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness month. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5 year survival rate (all stages combined) is 19%. As the seventh most common cancer amongst men, it is estimated that over 16,000 deaths will occur from it in 2019. Men are 3-4 more times likely to develop esophageal cancer than women.

 Ron Coury’s story offers an uplifting and inspiring survival story in time for  Esophageal Cancer Awareness.

In November 2005, I went to Santa Barbara for my annual physical with Dr. James Murray, a practice I’d begun 20 years earlier. I was in great shape, weighing in at 185 pounds at 53 years of age. I regularly ran three to five miles around the lake adjacent to my house in Las Vegas, and enjoyed full workouts and lifting weights. Still, my dad had fought cancer for more than two decades, eventually losing his battle in 2002. Deep inside, I always felt cancer would find me.

As usual, my physical began with an hour-long meeting with Dr. Murray. During our conversation, I mentioned one small oddity.

“When I eat or drink, it seems like I have to clear my throat for the first hour or two. Does that mean anything?”

“Let’s find out.”

Among a battery of tests, he ordered a barium swallow. When I was done, I headed back to Dr. Murray’s office expecting to get another glowing report. However, this time there was a glitch.

The radiologist noted that during my swallow test, it appeared that the barium passed over a small bump at the base of my esophagus. Probably just a food fragment stuck to the wall, but the doctor ordered a procedure to play safe. Unfortunately, it revealed a tumor. And a malignant one at that.

It was hard to accept, because other than the need to clear my throat, I felt fine. Hell, I felt invincible! Still, I answered with a voice so calm it surprised me. “Okay, we’re going to war. What do we do now?”

Dr. Murray recommended a surgeon at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Tom Demeester, who specialized in esophageal cancer. He explained that even if I qualified for surgery, only eight percent of people diagnosed with esophageal cancer survive it.

When the doctor stepped out of his office, I looked out the window and said, “Well, Dad, I guess I’ll be seeing you soon.”

Luckily, the tumor was caught early in its development. And I was an excellent candidate for surgery, an ordeal that could take up to 12 hours.

The bad news? This type of tumor was highly invasive. The surgeon would have to remove a perimeter around the tumor, as well as nearby lymph nodes and upper stomach, take out the majority of my esophagus, then connect what was left between my throat and stomach.

He explained that life would change for me in major ways. I could never lie flat again, because without an esophagus, whatever was in my stomach could come up my windpipe and choke me. Also, I could only eat small meals from that point on.

I returned home and got my affairs in order, pre planning my funeral if the surgery didn’t go well. The last thing I wanted was to put my wife and kids through this. One of the hardest parts was calling my friends and telling them, “There’s a pretty good chance I won’t survive. So, I just want to say, I feel like I had a great run and I love you.”

Finally, the moment of truth arrived: December 5, 2005. My friend and workout partner, Mark Beckerle, had driven to the hospital the day before to see me. A spiritual type, Mark said he believed that people undergoing surgery see a bright white light. If they walk to it, they die on the table. “Buddy,” he said, “if you see a white light, run the other way!”

During my surgery, I did see just such a light. As if watching the doctors and nurses from above the operating table, I saw myself facing the light. Remembering Mark’s words, I turned and did, in fact, run. Was it real or a dream? Did it happen when I was bleeding out from my spleen, which got pierced during the operation? I’ll never know.

My next conscious thought came when I woke up in post-op. The first night was brutal and the pain was really rough, but I was alive!

Things turned bad quickly. I was in ICU for several days after developing the dreaded staph infection, MRSA. Next came blood clots in both of my legs. And a collapsed lung. Finally, they moved me into a regular hospital room where I remained for a month.

By the time I was cleared to return home in January, I still had a drain in my side, and a feeding tube remained in place.

Over the course of 2006, I gradually grew stronger and I was finally allowed to start eating small amounts of solid food. As I’d been warned, the pain was through the roof. But I was thankful to resume a reasonable facsimile of normal life.

Since the surgery, I undergo a PET scan each year, which is the best cancer-screening test available. Between scans, every ache or pain would make me think, “Uh-oh, is that a tumor?” Thankfully, year after year the reports have come back, “NO CANCER!”

After the fifth PET scan, Dr. Demeester declared me cancer-free. I’ll never forget him for the life-saving surgery he performed. Nor will I ever be able to adequately thank Dr. Murray for discovering the tumor so early.

I lost over 40 pounds during my month-long hospital stay, along with a great deal of muscle mass. A few years later, I’d gained back 15 pounds, but I was maxed out. These days, I can’t eat enough to exceed the calories I burn through ordinary activity.

Ultimately, tenacity and stamina carried me through my toughest battle. As I learned more about esophageal cancer, I found out that approximately 13,500 Americans contract it annually and 12,500 are dead within a year. I’m certain that my excellent physical condition enabled me to beat the odds, not to mention the best medical team on the planet, and the love and support of family and friends.

And remember, regular physicals and early detection really do save lives.  

About Ron Coury

Ron Coury is the author of Tenacity: A Vegas Businessman Survives Brooklyn, the Marines, Corruption and Cancer to Achieve the American Dream: A True Story.

A Message to A Friend

Dear Fellow Humans,

Sitting across from me is the remarkable human and brave survivor, Asia Argento, who has been through more than most could stand, and yet stand she does. She stood up to her monster rapist and now she has to stand up to yet another monster, suicide. The suicide of her beloved lover and ally, Anthony Bourdain. I write these truths because I have been asked to. I know so many around the world thought of Anthony Bourdain as a friend and when a friend dies, it hurts. Many of these people who lost their ‘friend’ are wanting to lash out and blame. You must not sink to that level. Suicide is a horrible choice, but it is that person’s choice.

When Anthony met Asia, it was instant chemistry. They laughed, they loved and he was her rock during the hardships of this last year. Anthony was open with his demons, he even wrote a book about them. In the beginning of their relationship, Anthony told a mutual friend, “He’s never met anyone who wanted to die more than him.” And through a lot of this last year, Asia did want the pain to stop. But here’s the thing, over their time together, thankfully, she did the work to get help, so she could stay alive and live another day for her and her children. Anthony’s depression didn’t let him, he put down his armor, and that was very much his choice. His decision, not hers. His depression won. Anthony and Asia had a free relationship, they loved without borders of traditional relationships, and they established the parameters of their relationship early on. Asia is a free bird, and so was Anthony. Was. Such a terrible word to write. I’ve heard from many that the past two years they were together were some of his happiest and that should give us all solace.

Anthony was 61, the same age my father was when he died. My father also suffered from intermittent deep depression, and like Anthony, was part of a “pull up your bootstraps and march on” generation. The a “strong man doesn’t ask for help” generation. I know before Anthony died he reached out for help, and yet he did not take the doctor’s advice. And that has led us here, to this tragedy, to this loss, to this world of hurt. Do NOT do the sexist thing and burn a woman on the pyre of misplaced blame. Anthony’s internal war was his war, but now she’s been left on the battlefield to take the bullets. It is in no way fair or acceptable to blame her or anyone else, not even Anthony. We are asking you to be better, to look deeper, to read and learn about mental illness, suicide and depression before you make it worse for survivors by judging that which we do not understand, that which can never fully be understood. Sometimes we are stuck in the unknowable, and that is where we are now, a massive wave of darkness that threatens to swallow everyone in its wake.

As I watch Asia do her job on set today, I see a pillar of strength who continues to work to put food on her children’s table. I see Elizabeth Taylor carrying on filming Cat on a Hot Tin Roof despite her love, her husband, dying in a plane crash. I see all of us who have carried on. Please join me in sending healing energy to Anthony on his journey, and to all who’ve been left behind to journey on without him. There is no one to blame but the stigma of loneliness, the stigma of asking for help, the stigma of mental illness, the stigma of being famous and hurting.

We must do more and be better. Anthony, our friend, would want it that way.

To the media and to the random commenter, Anthony would never have wanted Asia to be hurt, I’d like to think he would want us to have the collective conversation that needs to be had about depression. Blame is NOT a conversation, it is the shutting down of our collective growth. Which is where we are now. We have a choice as humans, shrink to our smaller, uglier selves, or be better and grow as only true Phoenixes can. I urge you to be that Phoenix.

With great sadness and even greater hope, I remain,

Rose McGowan

cc: Asia Argento

If you are considering suicide, reach out. We need you here. You matter. You exist. You count. There is help a phone call away, reach out.

Suicide Prevention Hotlines:

Argentina: +5402234930430

Australia: 131114

Austria: 017133374

Belgium: 106

Bosnia & Herzegovina: 080 05 03 05

Botswana: 3911270

Brazil: 212339191

Canada: 5147234000 (Montreal); 18662773553 (outside Montreal)

Croatia: 014833888

Denmark: +4570201201

Egypt: 7621602

Finland: 010 195 202

France: 0145394000

Germany: 08001810771

Holland: 09000767

Hong Kong: +852 2382 0000

Hungary: 116123

India: 8888817666

Ireland: +4408457909090

Israel: 1201 or 972-889-1333 from abroad

Italy: 800860022

Japan: +810352869090

Mexico: 5255102550

New Zealand: 045861048

Norway: +4781533300

Pakistan: 15 / 115 (Emergency)

Philippines: 028969191

Poland: 5270000

Russia: 0078202577577

Spain: 914590050

South Africa: 0514445691

Sweden: 46317112400

Switzerland: 143

United Kingdom: 08457909090

USA: 18002738255

For a USA Crisis Text Line, please text CONNECT to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis.

9th Annual Wendy Walk

The 9th annual Wendy Walk Miami will take place at 10:00am on Sunday, April 8, 2018 at Palm Island Park in Miami. Over 1,000 people will gather this year in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles to raise awareness of sarcoma and funds to support research to eradicate this rare, aggressive form of cancer that impacted the life of Wendy Landes.

Wendy Walk was created in 2010 by the children of Wendy Landes in order to proactively support their mom in her battle with Liposarcoma. Wendy Walk Miami was founded by Wendy’s brother and sister-in-law, Michael and Stephanie Rosen, along with their children Alec, Kayla, and Sierra. The event will mark the five year anniversary of Wendy’s passing and officially kicks off the Wendy Walk 2018 season.

Who: Over 1,000 individuals from across the United States – including patients and survivors – committed to taking action in the fight against sarcoma. The walk is highly attended by University of Miami students, whose involvement by members of Sigma Delta Tau. Past celebrity involvement includes Patrick Dempsey, Angela Manuel Davis, Chelsea Kane, Peri Gilpin, and others.

What: Participants will walk together in a 5K around Palm and Hibiscus Islands. The event will include music, food, raffle prizes, and family fun.

When+Where: Sunday, April 8 at 10:00 am at Palm Island Park – 159 Palm Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33139

Why: Wendy Walk is one of the only organizations that exists specifically to fund sarcoma research. Proceeds go directly toward funding medical research on sarcoma. We are in a race against time, but are determined that, with the help and support of our community, we will find a cure for sarcoma.

Register: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/wendy-walk-miami-2018-tickets-42219635065

The Remarkable Life of David Hysong

Meet David Hysong — 30 year old adenoid cystic carcinoma patient and CEO of SHEPHERD Therapeutics. Here’s his remarkable story is below for consideration to pass along or speak with him about his journey:

Hysong finished his master’s degree in intellectual history in 2011 and found himself with a year’s lag time before he planned to enter the U.S. Navy. He was young, good looking, and smart. Most people in his position would probably have kicked back, gotten a job to pay the bills, and had some fun. However, David Hysong is not “most people.”

His story continues, and on a dare, he applied to Harvard Divinity School in 2012 for enrollment in the Fall. A series of educational and life adventures soon followed — good and bad, including his cancer diagnosis — and after graduation in May 2015, Hysong considered medical school. He took preparatory courses while working 80-hour weeks at two jobs to pay off medical and student debts. The schedule, in the wake of cancer treatment and graduate school, began to burn him out. Hysong then took a break for a few weeks. The clouds cleared and he was inspired to undertake what he calls “an impossible task”: a biotech start up that searched for cures to rare cancers like his.

Now, welcome SHEPHERD Therapeutics. His Genzyme and Harvard connections enabled him to assemble a world-class team of scientists. The firm’s goal is to find cures for the more than 250 rare cancers that make up 42 percent of cancer diagnoses in the United States. Hysong says that Shepherd is well on its way.

“We’ve raised close to $6.5M and we’re only just now finalizing our product portfolio,” he says. “The cool thing is, a lot of the times, therapeutics are approved when they represent a 30 percent survival rate or 40 percent survival rate. For the diseases we’re looking at, our preliminary data show about an 80 percent survival rate. We really think we’re going to be very successful and save a lot of lives.”

You can read David’s full story on Harvard Divinity School’s website, here: http://hds.harvard.edu/news/2017/12/07/Hysong-idealism-in-action#

Hysong was on the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Healthcare list, and he was named as part of a class of 2017’s Future Biotech Giants. Not to mention he’s been covered by Southern Living, and he has spoken at the Forbes Under 30 Summit. SHEPHERD Therapeutics has offices in Boston and Nashville.

CONSTRUCTION UNDERWAY AT NATIONAL AIDS MEMORIAL

This week (August 18th) marks nearly thirty years since the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE)Act was signed into law, creating the most comprehensive federal program that provides services exclusively to people living with HIV.

Hemophilia advocates and survivors will gather on the eve of the anniversary at the National AIDS Memorial where construction is underway for a beautifully designed memorial feature being built to forever honor all the lives lost in the hemophilia community to AIDS.

The Hemophilia Memorial feature will consist of a new stone circle inscribed with the names of those in the hemophilia community who have died from AIDS.  It will also pay tribute to the courage and activism of those who worked tirelessly on behalf of the hemophilia community to ensure America’s blood supply is safe and this type of tragedy never happens again.

The hemophilia community was faced with evidence that treatment for their disorder was contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C. Approximately 90% of all people with severe hemophilia were infected with HIV. In response, , the hemophilia community launched a powerful and inspiring fight to right the system that failed them and to make blood and blood products safer for all.

Hemophilia advocates and survivors will gather to view construction progress, share their personal stories and encourage the hemophilia community to share names of loved ones lost.

There is still time for names to be inscribed in the circle before its formal dedication next month.

Information about how to have a name inscribed in the Hemophilia Memorial feature can be found at Aids Memorial Official Website.

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WHEN:          Thursday, August 17, 2017

                         10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

WHERE:       The National AIDS Memorial (the “Grove”)

Eastern end of Golden Gate Park at the intersection of Bowling Green & Nancy Pelosi Drives

WHO:            Leaders, advocates and survivors in the Hemophiliac and HIV/AIDS Communities, including:

  • Patrick Dunlap, CEO, Hemophilia Foundation of Northern California
  • John Cunningham, Executive Director, National AIDS Memorial Grove
  • Karen Holine, mother of Jason Neal Fulton, who died due to the tainted blood supply