Quincy Jones Talks Mesothelioma in HBO’s ‘Burning the Light’

Quincy Jones in his HBO special Burning the Light

Last night, comedian Quincy Jones opened his heart to HBO viewers with “Quincy Jones: Burning the Light,” a one-hour special about his personal battle with mesothelioma.

“There is no cancer when I am on that stage,” the 31-year-old told the audience at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles. “It is only me telling my jokes. You can deal with the cancer before and you can deal with it after. But on that stage, I’m cancer-free.”

After months of raising awareness about mesothelioma, Jones’s dream finally came true with a giant thank you to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” a Kickstarter fundraising campaign and HBO for making it happen.

Mixing Mesothelioma with Laughter

“You know the reason that we are doing this [HBO special] is because I had a dream of making a stand-up special, and so we set a meager goal of 5,000, all right?” Jones told the audience. “And because of your guys’ love and support and the comedy community, we blew past that, and we went to $50,000.”

DeGeneres had invited Jones to her show in March to talk about his condition. He told her audience about his chemotherapy and symptoms such as stomach pains and nausea.

In his special, Quincy poked fun about his own diagnosis and his treatment — after all, comedy is his life.

“So last year I was sick, and I didn’t have health insurance, so I did what everyone else does. I did WebMD, and I self-diagnosed myself,” he said. “I thought it was celiac disease, and let me tell how you relieved I am to find out it is cancer — I can eat regular pasta again!”

He also equated his mood swings to pregnancy.

“Going through chemo, I realize it’s the closest thing a man could get to relating to a woman going through pregnancy,” he said. “I have the same mood swings, the same food cravings, same nonsensible logic that they have when they go through it.”

Tackling the Unexpected

When Jones was diagnosed with stage IV peritoneal mesothelioma, it didn’t end his dreams. For the young comedian, the diagnosis was simply fuel for kicking his goals and aspirations into overdrive.

But his schedule changed.

In an exclusive interview with Asbestos.com in April, Jones explained some of the background behind his diagnosis and HBO special.

“When I got diagnosed with cancer, they gave me a prognosis of a year,” Jones told Asbestos.com.

What do you do when you’re told you may only have a year to live? How do you react? For Jones, his response was two-fold. First, he reminded himself and everyone around him he wasn’t only going to live a year. Second, he decided he needed to leave behind a legacy of laughter.

In fact, he laughed about his mortality and relationships with the audience during his special.

“I got cancer. So how do you drop that into an OkCupid [dating] conversation?” he asked. “Then we meet up, and I have to ask a girl: ‘Define a long-term relationship.'”

Jones said his “Burning the Light” special is dedicated to anyone diagnosed with cancer or those who have lost a loved one to the often deadly disease.

“I want to tell people that you have to continue living your life,” he said.


Cara joined The Mesothelioma Center as Social Media Specialist in July 2015 to continue her mission of making a difference in world. Every day, Cara speaks with survivors, caregivers and their loved ones in the online mesothelioma community to answer questions and offer emotional support. If you have a story idea for Cara or you'’d like to learn more about social media, please email her at ctompot@asbestos.com.

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