I’m also sad today because late last night I read online that Laura Ziskin passed away. Laura Ziskin was a major Hollywood Producer responsible for movies like “Pretty Woman”, “As Good as it Gets” and the “Spiderman” movies. More importantly, she was one of the co-founders of a cancer charity called “Stand Up To Cancer” (SU2C) for short. But to call SU2C a “charity” is almost to do it a disservice. SU2C is an organization that seeks to cut down the barriers of information that get in the way of cancer research.
In NJ, I worked in medical publishing. In that world, I learned about some of the drama that goes on in the medical community. Doctors, Surgeons, Specialists and Scientists need to write and publish papers to get credit for their work whether it be a long or short term study, a case study on a patient, a medical trial for a new procedure or whatever the case may be. When you publish these papers, time is of the essence. You want to get your study out before anyone with a similar study gets theirs out. This is because these papers lead to funding for new projects. If you are working on a project that you BELIEVE in, you want to be able to continue that work. In order to continue that work, you need resources. How do you get resources? Money. Where does money come from? Grants. That makes it a VERY competitive process which is on one hand, good for the patient because it moves research faster. On the other hand, it is bad because these researchers have to kind of keep the information they have close to their vest so that no one takes their idea thus halting the process of their own work. This is bad for the patient because we lost the potential for collective knowledge and momentum in work.
SU2C has brought together a think tank of talented researchers to BRING TOGETHER a consortium of information to take cancer down once and for all. Laura Ziskin was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. Since Laura Ziskin is a Hollywood powerhouse, she decided to use her connections, her pull and her money to fund research. She has been working tirelessly through diagnosis of stage three and then stage four cancer to save other’s lives.
My Nana has had cancer for about ten years or more. The major cancer she had was breast cancer. She had it treated and underwent a mastectomy. This put her into remission for the past few years. She always went to her doctor and did what she was told. Last year we went home for her 80th birthday. Not soon after, we were told that the cancer was back. Being far from home, I couldn’t really physically BE there for Nana. I was looking for a job and came across an internship at SU2C. I applied and got it. I was thrilled because I felt like I could be helping these people and in turn helping myself feel like I was DOING something for Nana. Little did I know, they were planning a huge televised event. I knew a little bit about SU2C from a few years prior. I still don’t know why but they started following me on Twitter. I checked out their website and didn’t really do anything else. I think I followed them back for a little while but wasn’t sure what they were besides a charity. Then I heard about an event where Patrick Swaze stood on a stage and talked about his cancer. I had no idea that event was SU2C’s flagship event. Cut to summer of 2010 and I’m upset about Nana. I put in a resume and get an interview. I get the internship and find out that they are hosting another televised event. All through August, I help these hardworking people set up for this event. I basically did spreadsheets and documents for them where needed. I ran errands and picked up SU2C merchandise from the vendors. I stuffed boxes and folded shirts. I picked up lunch and stocked the fridge. On the day of the event, I did little odd jobs wherever I was needed from putting gift bags in trailers to escorting people around the lot. I handed out t-shirts to the crew, whatever was needed I tried to do. I stayed on about a month following the show and did some more of the same. I couldn’t stay on because we were in serious financial straits and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
During this time, Nana was in the hospital. We were pretty sure she was dying. It was difficult for me because I did this FOR Nana but when I was at SU2C I was surrounded by Cancer. I was panicked over losing Nana and had to kind of bury my face in it all day long. It was tough. But Nana survived. She made it out of the hospital and got back home. She made it to April and went at home and in peace. She got another Halloween, another Thanksgiving, another Christmas, another New Year, another Valentine’s Day, another St. Patrick’s Day and one final Easter before she had to leave us. It was AMAZING.
And so today, I am sad to hear that it was Laura Ziskin’s time to go home. I didn’t know her. I was just a lowly intern and she was, well she was Laura Ziskin haha. The office was small and I saw her often. I regularly had to empty her trash or run little errands for her like pick up her lunch. Mainly I just passed her in the hall and said a quick hello. I’m kind of shy with people that I don’t know especially MAJOR HOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS haha. So I can’t speak to how he WAS but I can say what I SAW. This lady was Tough. As. Nails. Oh she was sick. But she tried not to show it. She was there almost every day. This is a woman with stage four cancer and she was at work every damn day. She was holding meetings, making decisions, overseeing everything. During prep for the show, she was on set, watching performances, watching cues. She was there early and she stayed late. Also, she lived CLEAN. Clean food, no preservatives, no cancer-causing chemicals. And she extended that lifestyle to her employees. The kitchen was stocked with clean, healthy, natural food and beverages that were there for the taking. I always found that to be a very elegant and very kind gesture on her part. That woman, she walked the walk and she talked the talk. She could’ve gotten sick and boo hooed. No, she said, “Wait, I have resources here. I have connections and I have money and I know people who can get people to pay attention to them.” She used her media connections to shine a light on the fact that it is BULLSHIT that cancer comes and steals our lives away. It’s BULLSHIT that you can live your life and try to fill it with love and accomplishments only to have it taken from you by an illness that is relentless. So I can’t say that I’m sorry she had to go. She gave cancer the old one-two for sure and anyone whose life she touched will tell you the same.
I’m sure Laura Ziskin couldn’t pick me out of a lineup if her life depended on it but she definitely made an impression on me. I thank her for all of the work she has done with her life. I thank all the diligent people she surrounded herself with to help her carry out this important work. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help these people out even in such a minute little way. I will always look back on that time fondly as putting my hands to work there made me feel like I was doing something good for Nana, a person that I love dearly.
Anyway, here is Laura Ziskin’s Obituary on the SU2C site. Rest in Peace Laura Ziskin.