Lauren Terrazzano, a tough but compassionate Newsday reporter who received praise from cancer survivors for chronicling her three-year fight with lung cancer, has died. She was 39.
Her death on Tuesday night at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan was announced to the Newsday staff Wednesday morning in a letter from editor John Mancini.
“She was well-loved by her many friends and colleagues in the newsroom and a formidable presence in the lives of the people in the communities she covered,” Mancini said.
Described by colleagues as a tenacious, hard-nosed street reporter, Terrazzano began writing the column, “Life, With Cancer,” in October 2006.
She wrote about the inappropriate things people say to cancer patients because they do not know what else to say, and about breaking the myth that people with cancer are heroes, “when really we’re just like everyone else.”
Terrazzano also criticized the tobacco marketers, opined about aspiring first lady Elizabeth Edwards’ battle with cancer and about the stress the disease has on loved ones, all the while trying to maintain a sense of humor and humanity.
“My goal was to tackle the taboo subjects of the disease that the mainstream media often fails to do,” Terrazzano told The Associated Press. “We so often cover the news aspects of cancer: the scientific breakthrough or even the sob story, yet there are so many other avenues that go unexplored.”
Although she said she used the column to vent her own frustrations with cancer, it quickly won praise from others in the same situation.
“Her column has increased awareness to the challenges that we all face,” Karen Joy Miller, a breast cancer survivor, said in a recent Associated Press profile of Terrazzano.
Terrazzano’s column won the top prize this year in the science/health reporting category of a contest run by the Silurians, the oldest press club in the United States. The award ceremony was scheduled for Thursday night.
The Newswomen’s Club of New York cited her column for outstanding achievement, and she was also named the recipient of the 2007 Joanie Award from the Joan Scarangello Foundation to Conquer Lung Cancer.
“Lauren did not go quietly,” Mancini said. “She brought to the column her reporting zeal and an unflinching determination to describe her situation accurately. This doggedness was no news to her doctors.”
She is survived by her husband, Al Baker, a reporter with The New York Times. They had recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. Also at her bedside when she died were her parents, Virginia and Frank Terrazzano.