Former “Real World” star Sean Sasser’s untimely death from mesothelioma last week reminds us that this deadly asbestos-related disease can strike down anyone, regardless of age or profession.
Sasser, who died at 44, became a reality television star thanks to his romance with Pedro Zamora, an AIDS activist and cast member of “The Real World: San Francisco.” Their relationship bloomed during the reality show’s third season, according to CNN.
Zamora and Sasser were two of the first openly gay men with AIDs to be depicted on U.S. television. Zamora died in November 1994 shortly after the airing of a “Real World” episode where the two men exchanged their vows in a commitment ceremony, according to CNN.
The onscreen relationship between Zamora and Sasser, who was also an AIDs activist and educator, is credited with helping to humanize gay relationships for many viewers and to draw attention to the issue of living with HIV/AIDS.
Sasser was diagnosed with stage four mesothelioma last month. At the time of his death, he was living with longtime partner Michael Kaplan in Portland, Oregon, and working as a pastry chef.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, the mineral fiber once used in many industrial products because of its strength, durability, and fireproofing properties. Although the disease is rare, it moves swiftly through the body, often killing its victims within a few months.