Comedian Grace White loses battle with lung cancer
Last Thursday morning, Women Who Kick Comedy Butt founder and comedy star Grace White, 58, lost her battle with lung cancer.
In November 2007, the longtime Colfax resident had been given three months to live after doctors diagnosed Stage 4 inoperable lung cancer.
Unwilling to sit on the sidelines, White teamed with the American Lung Association to raise awareness about the devastating effects of lung cancer as well as the need to find treatments and early detection methods.
She was a featured speaker at Inspire 2008, the American Lung Association’s Women & Lung Health luncheon in Sacramento.
White joined Dr. Deborah Morosini, sister of the late Dana Reeve who died from lung cancer, in promoting early detection research, smoke-free living and health air initiatives.
“There is a stigma around lung cancer because so many people think smokers brought it on themselves,” said Dr. Morosini in 2007. “Nobody deserves to get lung cancer. The fact is smoking causes lung cancer and if you don’t smoke you lower your risk. But other things can cause lung cancer.”
According to the American Lung Association, other known causes are exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, air pollution and certain chemicals.
The revenue raised would go to the state’s General Fund to protect some of California’s health programs as well as the Tobacco Control and Lung Cancer Research Account.
White also addressed the Senate Health Committee, urging passage of SB 600 – a bill to impose an additional tax on cigarettes and tobacco products. She later lobbied for a Senate bill that would have created an early detection and treatment research program.
She made public service announcements and, most recently, had been named to the board of directors of Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation.
White was starting to kick butt on stage when life gave her a proverbial kick in the butt.
A single mother, the self-described “Old Hippie Chick” had reached a point in life when she could pursue her dream of becoming a standup comedian.
White enjoyed the spotlight – making the rounds of comedy clubs and gaining recognition for her talent. But she also encountered the proverbial “glass ceiling.”
“Comedy is a male-oriented business,” she said in an earlier interview. “Only eight percent or less are women.”
In an effort to help other women break into show business, White formed an all-female standup comedy touring group, “Women Who Kick Comedy Butt” a few years ago.
As its producer, White’s goal was to give female comedians an avenue to share their unique views on life.
In pursuing her comedy career, however, White could not afford health insurance. After the diagnosis — made on her first doctor’s visit with the health insurance purchased by her daughter – White struggled to cover her medical expenses.
“Being a full-time comedian, producer and booker made it very difficult to ‘stay in the black,’” she wrote in January 2008. “Now within a few weeks, I find myself in the red, without the ability to produce income or keep up with my astronomical medical expenses.”
Members of her comedy troop stepped up and hosted several fundraisers on her behalf over the next few months.
Now White’s daughter, Alisa, is struggling with funeral arrangements, reports friend Dori Barrett.
“Grace built up this little circle of women to support Alisa,” Barrett said last week. “It really has been amazing to sit with everyone and share stories and laugh and cry together. I’m sure she loved hearing all the silliness and love as she ended her journey.”
In an effort to help White’s family with expenses, Barrett has organized a wreath making class from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18 at Studio Z, 34B W. Church St. A $15 donation includes all supplies.
“You can make our own wreath to decorate with or give as a gift,” Barrett said.
To participate in the class, call Barrett at (530) 906-3791.
Benefit for Grace White family
What: Make a fresh holiday wreath
When: 6 to 8 p.m., Dec. 18
Where: Studio Z, 34B Church Street
Donation: $15, includes supplies
For reservations, call Dori Barrett at 906-3791