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Comedian turns spotlight on healthcare crisis

Long-time Colfax resident battling lung cancer
By: Gloria Beverage
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Colfax resident Grace White is in the spotlight these days. However, it's not the type of spotlight the 57-year-old stand-up comedian ever expected. White, who is battling Stage 4 inoperable lung cancer, is the focus of a special edition of the Time Warner Cable Television series, Laff It Off With Grace. The episode, Saving Grace, was taped on Wednesday in Van Nuys. In addition to highlighting White's accomplishments in both life and comedy, the show's producer Grace Fraga addressed the national health-care crisis during this special episode. As a comic myself, I think this issue is especially important because it's absurd that in the richest country in the world there are 47 million people without health insurance, Fraga explained. Until she was diagnosed last September, White was the brainchild and star of an all-female standup comedy touring show, Women Who Kick Comedy Butt. She conceived the touring group several years ago to spotlight funny women because comedy is a male-dominated business. Only eight percent or less are women. White, who describes herself as That Old Hippie Chick, started intensive radiation therapy (18 planned treatments) as well as a very aggressive form of chemotherapy in January. I chose this ˜combo platter' of intensive treatments because (a) I want to kick this cancer's ass, and (b) I've grown accustomed to frequent, uncontrollable barfing, she wrote in her blog. However, there's nothing funny about being an out-of-work comedian. Being a full-time comedian, producer and booker made it very difficult to ˜stay in the black,' she wrote in January. Now, within a few short weeks, I find myself in the red, without the ability to produce income or keep up with my astronomical medical expenses. In pursuing her comedy career, White, a resident of Colfax for 33 years, could not afford health insurance. My daughter purchased insurance for me, White said. The minute I got coverage I felt really bad for everyone else who doesn't have it. My heart broke, she said, explaining that the cancer was found at her first exam. Throughout the dark days of the cancer treatments, White has kept a positive attitude “ thinking only happy thoughts. As a result, she said, the stage four cancer that had metastasized to her spine has been stopped. Though she still has lung cancer, White wants everyone to know she still fully intends to kick cancer's butt. And she's even more determined to shine a spotlight on the healthcare crisis. She will be speaking at Inspire 2008, the American Lung Association's Women & Lung Health luncheon on May 8 in Sacramento. Featured will be Dr. Deborah Morosini, sister of the late Dana Reeve, who died from lung cancer. The luncheon's focus is to prevent lung cancer by inspiring early detection research, smoke-free living and health air initiatives. In the interim, White's large circle of friends have banned together to help pay her medical bills. Locally, they will host a comedy benefit on her behalf starting at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Colfax Theater on Main Street in Colfax. Featured will be members of the Women Who Kick Comedy Butt troupe: Grace Fraga, Jovelyn Richards, Reannie Roads, Rebecca Arthur, Jen Slusse, Beth Schumann, Maggie Newcomb and Susan Melatta. Tickets, at $20 each, are available in Colfax at Calamity Jane's, The Mane Tamer or the Colfax Record. In Auburn, tickets available at Smith Chiropractic and Sun River Trading Company. The best thing people can do for me is to write their Congressmen about the healthcare crisis, White concluded. Insurance is too expensive for even working families to afford. Baby boomers alone could change the laws if all of them would use their voice. Donations to The Saving Grace Project can also be made through the PayPal account on the Web site www.wwkcb.com.