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When Heather Von St. James was 36 years old, her doctor gave her a horrible diagnosis.

When the doctor said the words "malignant pleural mesothelioma," Heather was terrified. Most people who receive that diagnosis only live for a couple more years, tops. And Heather had a 3-month-old daughter to care for.

But what even is malignant pleural mesothelioma, and how had Heather gotten it? Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that can form in the lining of internal organs like, in Heather's case, the lungs. It is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.


Heather with her daughter in 2005.

Asbestos. Isn't that the scary stuff you find in old buildings?

Indeed it is. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral loaded with characteristics that make it very desirable as a building material. It absorbs sound, it's very strong, it's resistant to fire, heat, electrical, and chemical damage, and it's also pretty cheap stuff (not counting the toll on human lives...).

It's not just in old buildings — asbestos is still used in drywall, plaster, fire blankets, vinyl flooring, vehicle brakes, and a host of other frighteningly common products.

Of course, in addition to all its desirable characteristics, asbestos also happens to be pretty deadly: inhaling those teensy tiny asbestos fibers can cause fatal illnesses. It's particularly dangerous if you're exposed long-term — day after day, month after month. Like if you work with asbestos. Or maybe ... if your dad does.

Larger pieces of asbestos (via Thinkstock).

How do you end up with a cancer you've never heard of?

"I was a new mom," Heather explained, "and I was diagnosed with this really rare cancer that I'd never heard of except for in commercials on TV." But as soon as she heard the word "asbestos," she knew where she'd been exposed.

See, Heather's dad worked in construction when she was little and was often handling materials laden with asbestos. She told me, "I would hug him when he would come home. I would wear his jacket to go out ... and do chores in the yard. ... And his car was always covered in dust. That's where I was exposed. And 30 years later, I'm sick because of it. It made me angry."

Rightfully so.

Heather as a child with her family.

Stories like Heather's are far too common.

According to the World Health Organization, over 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related illnesses due to occupational exposure. That doesn't even count people who've been exposed to asbestos in the natural environment, or people like Heather, or the friends and family of those who are occupationally exposed.

"I was the [patient] ... that the asbestos companies never wanted to admit there was."

Heather explains, "I was the [patient] ... that the asbestos companies never wanted to admit there was: the daughters, the wives of the asbestos workers."

Tell me again why this stuff is still legal in the U.S.?

Yep, that's right, asbestos is still legally used in many products in the U.S. today.

It's legal today despite the fact that the adverse health effects of asbestos exposure were first documented in 1899 and have been proven time and again over the past century. And despite the fact that dozens of other countries (including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Chile, Australia, Turkey, and many others) have banned it entirely.

In the 1970s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned a few limited asbestos uses — such as use in many spray-applied fireproofing and insulating products. And in 1989, the EPA tried to take more aggressive action with the Asbestos Ban and Phaseout Rule, which was intended to phase out asbestos entirely.

Needless to say, the ban didn't last. In 1991, the asbestos industry sued the EPA, arguing that there wasn't enough evidence of health risk and that a complete ban was not the "least burdensome" way to abate any proven risk. A federal court ruled in favor of the asbestos industry, and although minor victories have since been made, attempts to outright ban asbestos were all but abandoned.

What does Heather have to say about all this? “Money speaks in government, and [asbestos] is a big industry. The only reason it's still [being used and imported] is money. It's down and out corporate greed."

Your family could be at risk — but don't panic (yet).

Asbestos-related illnesses are caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. If the material is left undisturbed and intact — maybe buried in a wall or beneath subsequent layers of flooring — the risks are minimal.

We all frequent buildings laden with asbestos nearly every day.

But if a building is more than a couple decades old, be aware that it's likely to have asbestos hiding somewhere — maybe in its insulation, in its popcorn-style ceilings, or in its vinyl floor tiles.

We all frequent buildings laden with asbestos nearly every day. In most non-occupational situations, the risks are minimal. But if you're planning any home renovation projects, or if you suspect that you may have exposed asbestos in your home, you're going to want to hire a professional to come deal with it.

Professionals removing materials containing asbestos (via Thinkstock).

Nearly 10 years have passed since Heather's terrifying diagnosis.

After intensive medical treatment — including a lung removal — Heather's life has changed dramatically. She wasn't able to return to her previous job, so she now spends much of her time as a patient advocate, supporting others and sharing her own story. She explains, "I'm very public, because I don't want anybody to have to suffer through this alone. I want them to know that there are people out there living with this disease and thriving."

That Heather has survived so long is extremely rare for a mesothelioma patient. And because of that, her story is one of hope. She advocates finding better treatment and a cure for all asbestos-related illnesses, as well as an outright ban on all asbestos.

"I'm very public, because I don't want anybody to have to suffer through this alone. I want them to know that there are people out there living with this disease and thriving."

What does Heather wish everyone knew about asbestos? She says, "I wish the general population knew how dangerous [asbestos] is, and the fact that it's not banned in the U.S." Asbestos is simply far too dangerous to be legal.

Hear the story from Heather herself below, or check out her blog.

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The last thing children should have to worry about is where their next meal will come from. But the unfortunate reality is food insecurity is all too common in this country.

In an effort to help combat this pressing issue, KFC is teaming up with Blessings in a Backpack to provide nearly 70,000 meals to families in need and spread holiday cheer along the way.

The KFC Sharemobile, a holiday-edition charitable food truck, will be making stops at schools in Chicago, Orlando, and Houston in December to share KFC family meals and special gifts for a few select families to address specific needs identified by their respective schools.

These cities were chosen based on the high level of food insecurity present in their communities and hardships they’ve faced, such as a devastating hurricane season in Florida and an unprecedented winter storm in Houston. In 2021, five million children across the US lived in food-insecure households, according to the USDA.

“Sharing a meal with family or friends is a special part of the holidays,” said Nick Chavez, CMO of KFC U.S. “Alongside our franchisees, we wanted to make that possible for even more families this holiday season.”

KFC will also be making a donation to Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that works to provide weekend meals to school-aged children across America who might otherwise go hungry.

“The generous donations from KFC could not have come at a better time, as these communities have been particularly hard-hit this year with rising food costs, inflation and various natural disasters,” Erin Kerr, the CEO of Blessings in a Backpack, told Upworthy. “Because of KFC’s support, we’re able to spread holiday cheer by donating meals for hunger-free weekends and meet each community’s needs,” Kerr said.

This isn’t the first time KFC has worked with Blessings in a Backpack. The fried chicken chain has partnered with the nonprofit for the last six years, donating nearly $1 million dollars. KFC employees also volunteer weekly to package and provide meals to students in Louisville, Kentucky who need food over the weekend.

KFC franchisees are also bringing the Sharemobile concept to life in markets across the country through local food donations and other holiday giveback moments. Ampex Brands, a KFC franchisee based in Dallas, recently held its annual Day of Giving event and donated 11,000 meals to school children in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

If you’d like to get involved, you can make a donation to help feed students in need at kfc.com/kfcsharemobile. Every bit helps, but a donation of $150 helps feed a student on the weekends for an entire 38-week school year, and a donation as low as $4 will feed a child for a whole weekend.

Celine Dion spoke directly to her fans on social media.

Celine Dion has shared the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome.

In an emotional video to her fans, the 54-year-old French-Canadian singer apologized for taking so long to reach out and explained that her health struggles have been difficult to talk about.

"As you know, I have always been an open book, and I wasn't ready to say anything before. But I'm ready now."

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Trevor Noah says goodbye in his last episode of "The Daily Show."

Trevor Noah, who has spent the past seven years hosting "The Daily Show," has officially said goodbye to his late-night fans. While he could have chosen any note to leave on, he made his final words an emotional tribute to the Black women who have influenced him.

Since he took over the spot from Jon Stewart, Noah has made the show his own with a blend of quick-witted comedy and thoughtful commentary. Noah had big shoes to fill, but to his credit, he didn't try to cram his feet into them. He simply brought his own shoes and placed them right next to Stewart's, offering his own style of comedy and unique perspectives on the world night after night. Even in his "Between the Scenes" segments, where he chatted with the audience during commercial breaks, Noah frequently added insightful context to current issues.

In his final monologue, he credits those insights to his Black women mentors, from his own mother and grandmother to thought leaders he has had on his show to Black women in general. And it's quite telling that he managed to keep it together in his final show, right up until the point when he talked about these women.

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Tenacious D performs at the Rock in Pott festival.

The medley that closes out the second side of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album is one of the most impressive displays of musicianship in the band’s storied career. It also provided the perfect send-off before the band’s official breakup months later, ending with the lyrics, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

In 1969, “Abbey Road” was the last record the group made together, although “Let it Be,” recorded earlier that year, was released in 1970.

At first, the medley was just a clever way for the band to use a handful of half-finished tunes, but when it came together it was a rousing, grandiose affair.

Arranged by Paul McCartney and producer George Martin, the medley weaves together five songs written by McCartney, "You Never Give Me Your Money," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight” and "The End," and three by John Lennon, “Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam."

Fifteen seconds after the medley and the album’s conclusion, there is a surprise treat, McCartney’s 22-second “Her Majesty,” which wound up on the record as an accident.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass, collectively known as Tenacious D, recently reimagined two of the songs in the medley, "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "The End," for acoustic guitars for a performance on SiriusXM's Octane Channel. Like everything with Tenacious D, it showed off the duo’s impressive musical chops as well as their fantastic sense of humor.

The truncated version of the medley was also a wonderful tribute to the incredible work the Beatles did 53 years ago.

Warning: This video contains NSFW language.

Adam Sandler and Brendan Fraser for Variety's "Actors on Actors."

There are few actors in this world as universally loved as Brendan Fraser and Adam Sandler. So when the two sign on to interview one another, you can bet that people are going to be thrilled.

During one of Variety's “Actors on Actors” segments, the two swapped stories of being in the entertainment business—from the movie “Airheads," which they both starred in, to more recent projects like Sandler’s “Hustle” and Fraser’s “The Whale.”

It’s clear that these two respect and admire each other’s work. Sandler applauded Fraser’s career-long stride of making bold and interesting choices, and especially commended him for his starring role in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” which has been hailed as a major comeback for the “Mummy” franchise star.
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