Life with Cancer by frank Terrazzano and Paul Lonardo
Newsday columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning social journalist Lauren Terrazzano championed the causes of abused children, the elderly, and the homeless, truly becoming a voice for the voiceless through her writing by taking global issues and personalizing them to dramatize how they affected individual families and people. Not infrequently, her stories would force change in people’s thinking and in governmental policies. Lauren infused every journalistic story she crafted with passion. That included her own story: at the age of thirty-six, Lauren–a non-smoker–was diagnosed with lung cancer. Until her death three years later, Lauren turned her incredible drive and her passion for communication into putting a human face on her disease and raising public awareness of lung cancer.
Her boss at Newsday gave her a weekly column called “Life, with Cancer,” and it was through this column that Lauren candidly shared her day-to-day experiences and shed light on lung cancer—a disease that kills more women each year than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers combined.
Reflecting on his daughter, Frank writes of Lauren as “A beautiful young lady who believed that ‘The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword’ [and chose] to use her pen as a light—a light to shine in dark places exposing society’s many shortcomings.” Including a foreword by best-selling author Anna Quindlen, Life, with Cancer begins with Lauren’s early years as a journalist, and with the intensity of the journalist herself, covers her larger-than-life experiences. A tapestry of Lauren’s life is woven together throughout the course of the book, taking into perspective her childhood, her accomplishments as a young journalist, and the final three years of her “Life, with Cancer.” These three major components are combined in each chapter to tell Lauren’s complete story.
This was a courageous book to write as a testament to a much loved daughter Lauren. Mr Terrazzano has written in simple and clear style, a celebration of Laurens life. His expression of helplessness in his daughter’s illness comes across as realistic and very sad. However this is not a sad book, it is full of life and details of the very exciting life led by a young dedicated journalist who wanted to make a difference to people who needed help and recognition.
Early on in Lauren’s career she said that a wise editor once told her,
‘We are all dying we’re just doing it on a different schedule.’ How true.
It was very novel way to write the book by finding out about the lives of Lauren’s friends, and through that to learn about her life and the effect that she had on others.
The story jumps back and forward in time from childhood to adulthood and also gives details of Lauren’s college days and trials and tribulations. I particularly enjoyed her personal involvement in the Long Island community and the investigative work done to improve lives of that community. The fact that she got to ride along with social services is surely a first for a journalist. It was also very scary to find out the specific targeting of cigarette advertising toward women.
The statistics given on lung cancer are truly horrific, but a necessary part of the narrative, as this was real life and real facts had to be looked at.This seemed very much Lauren’s style and her father has captured this well in his writing.
The excerpts from Laurens own column ‘Life with cancer,’ were very touching and honest and had a lot of humour. I could understand her not finding her illness ‘the best thing that had ever happened’ as she had heard other sufferers say (page 150) But it did make her consider that her time precious.
The recounting of Laurens last few days and last moments alive were heartbreaking to read, but the writer, tastefully, did not over dramatise the events. There is no way Mr. Terrazzano’s life will ever be the same, but perhaps the writing of this book has helped him to honour his daughter through her work, her colleagues and friends as well as a much loved daughter. I have no problem in recommending this book.