Tag Archives: amnewyork

I have cancer, and the doctor says it’s my fault

I have cancer. What’s worse; there is no doubt I gave it to myself. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most prevalent skin cancer in the U.S.; three in 10 Americans will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. I anticipate that number will likely grow considering my generation’s goal to “always be bronzing.”

My thirst for a perennial glow was insatiable as a teenager. I’m of Welsh and German descent and am naturally quite fair skinned. Casper the Friendly Ghost could be my kin. But, now I’m spotted with freckles and moles from the innumerable sunbathing sessions that left my skin burned and blistered. When it peeled I would take sweet, sadistic pleasure in pulling off the sheets of dead skin.

Winter? Dash – my first job was a booth babe at a second rate hair and tanning salon. I would bake myself in the 20 minute booths and didn’t stop even when my body cried out in tingles and redness.

Fifteen years later and at 29 years-old I find myself in a dermatologist’s exam room being handed the Cancer Club card.

I will be fine, the doctor says. One surgery here and some check-ups there; I will live to bronze another day. But, because I am young it will likely be back.

One would think that Americans have been educated enough to stop burning themselves in the quest to achieve the perfect tan. But, I’m not so sure. Years ago I lost my lust for the sun when I realized wrinkles were a real threat. Vanity drives most measures, I’ve found. Now I’m of a small minority of my friend group who wears and reapplies sunscreen. Forget asking them to cover up or join me underneath the umbrella.

I may be on the lowest end of the fair complexion spectrum, but sun worshippers of all ethnicities need to take note of the damage caused by excessive exposure. Don’t put yourself through the agony of what the Cancer club could mean – sickness, hair loss, and even death.

Reduce your risk and follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations. In case you’ve forgotten: Use sunscreen SPF 15+ and reapply often, limit time in the sun, especially when the rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and wear clothing that covers exposed skin. After hearing my tale, several friends have scheduled appointments to be checked. Don’t wait for a loved one to suffer my fate, take it from me and protect yourself.

Preventing sexual abuse in NYC schools

I once tried initiating a relationship with my high school biology teacher. I was 16 years-old and he was in his late forties – gray hair and all.

Coming from a broken home, I lacked a father figure and therefore found no issue with my questions about his personal life; did he have a girlfriend? If so, what was she like? I lingered around his classroom after school in order to be alone with him.

Looking back, it’s difficult for me to say if I ever wanted anything to come of it. I certainly goaded him. And, I certainly didn’t know what I was doing as a naive teenager.

He never took my bait. But, throughout the New York City public school system not every teacher shows such restraint.

The NYC Department of Education released a report earlier this month that it has fielded nearly 600 complaints of sexual misconduct against teachers and faculty since 2009. The special commissioner of investigations Richard Condon said 104 of those cases were substantiated.

Some of these cases have been highly publicized. Two examples include Colleen Finn, a teacher at Aviation Career and Technical High School in Queens, who had sex with a student at least four times in 2010; and Salahudin Bholai, a teacher at the High School of Graphic Communications in Manhattan, who allegedly text¬ed a student a sexually explicit photo.

While nothing ever happened between my teacher and me, it is worth noting that I never told anyone either. Some students, like me, think they’re already grown up and able to handle an adult relationship. More often than not victims blame themselves and sometimes it’s not until years later that they realize what has happened.

Parents should take care to notice changes in their children and not immediately equate them with hormonal imbalances. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, warning signs in children who have suffered possible sexual abuse include: nightmares, distraction, changes in eating habits, sudden mood swings of rage, fear or withdrawal and thoughts of themselves as repulsive or dirty. Teenagers may show signs of self-injury, inadequate personal hygiene or drug and alcohol abuse.

Don’t dismiss these signs. Instead sit down with your child or teen and encourage them to be honest with you. Remind them that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Respect their need for privacy and be an active listener. Ultimately, try to help them regain a sense of control over their lives that was stolen from them.

The nuisance of New York’s noisy streets

Note to self: Don't ever move into an apartment located directly above a night club.
Note to self: Don’t ever move into an apartment located directly above a night club.

Last year I was engaged in a Battle Royale over noise brought on by my neighbor – a hookah bar located directly under my first-floor apartment.

At the time, my roommate and I suffered from the usual naivety of first-time New York apartment renters when we listened to and believed the real estate agent who said there had never been any noise complaints against them.

We moved in on a Monday and slept peacefully for four days. Then Thursday came. At 10 p.m. a torrent of Rihanna’s melodies rose up through the floorboards and an overwhelming sense of dread coupled with bass beats was its undertow.

I was immediately awash in the truth that we had been lied to and were trapped in a wet-inked lease. How could anyone live like this? Our floors and walls vibrated and the dishes in our sink clinked along with every beat of the Thursday – Saturday show time.

Noise is the number one complaint since the 311 helpline was established in 2003, according to amNewYork’s Monday front page article. More than 3.1 million noise complaints have been filed in the past decade. I was among those voices.

I’m not perturbed by sirens, honking or yelling. But, I can’t handle bass during a weeknight. A war was waged on the bar owners and I became an expert in New York sound ordinance codes. Commercial establishments must limit the level of unreasonable noise to 42 decibels as measured from inside nearby residences. To give you an idea, the level of normal conversation is 50 dB(A) and stereos/boom boxes measure 110 dB(A). The next highest level is a jet plane, which clocks in at 130 dB(A).

I also became a prolific dialer and filer of 311 noise complaints. The cops – whose station was located across the street and whose desks were visible from my kitchen window – dutifully followed up with each complaint, but to no avail.

Two of the owners made half-hearted attempts to appease us. They said they would pay to install carpet and would caulk our pipes. They would do anything they could think of that wouldn’t cost them more than $50 and would also therefore be useless.

The other tenants could feel and hear the bass up to the fifth level. We had all become dependent on sleeping pills and wine. I begged the landlord to force them to properly soundproof. Maybe it had been damaged during Hurricane Sandy?

It was clear that they weren’t going to spend the tens of thousands of dollars to do this and it was also clear that if we didn’t vacate we would go insane. The night I found myself on the sidewalk screaming and pointing my finger in the owner’s face I realized the battle was a losing one.

We decided to skip out on the lease and move five streets down to an apartment our friends were vacating. We sent a letter from a lawyer stating they our contract had been breached. Two days before we moved out, I received a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection saying they would step in on the matter. It was a major victory.

We still live in our friends’ apartment. The window in my bedroom is single-paned and I can hear people talking on the street and car wheels striking manhole covers. A friend said the street noise reminded him of being in Venezuela. I haven’t called 311 once. The traffic is my lullaby.

Hannah Hager is an Online Content Director living in Alphabet City.
This article was originally published in amNewYork.