Helping Beyond the Grave
A Writer’s Book of Days (01/04) – “A Year After Your Death…”
My remains are finally delivered back to my family after a prestigious university uses what it can of my body for research purposes.
As a former cancer patient and survivor, I was a goldmine of information for scientists looking for a environmental link between pesticides used on Long Island in the 1980s and 1990s and instances of blood cancers like Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
As a child, I would be playing outside and mosquito sprayers would drive down the street, helping to prevent another summer outbreak. (In the 1980s, there were no warnings to stay inside.) Some people suggested it might have been residue from the dust after the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. The particles had been partially measure in the Bronx, where I was a freshman at college. A few other students were rumored to have cancer, but I never met them.
I became paranoid in 2005, the year my cancer was discovered, I underwent treatment, and went into remission. I stopped dying my hair. Using perfumes. Eating fast food. The constant restrictions on myself was difficult, and I realized I may never know what caused my cancer.
But that wouldn’t stop me from trying to help others. In my early ’30s, when I created my first will, I went through a long process of donating my body to science if I died. My family and friends could just have a small memorial service if they wanted, but I couldn’t justify the hoopla and cost of a traditional funeral when there were still people unexpectedly getting cancer and not knowing why.
A year after my death, there will plenty of evidence that there are environmental factors connected to blood cancer. Reform will be made on the governmental and business side. Blood cancer diagnoses and death will drop greatly. Although small, I’ve done my part.