Newsday Columnist Dies of Cancer at 39

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. —  Lauren Terrazzano, a Newsday reporter who chronicled her three-year bout with lung cancer in a column, has died. She was 39.

The writer's death on Tuesday night at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan was announced to the Newsday staff on 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.

After graduating from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in 1994, Terrazzano worked briefly at the New York Daily News and the Record in Hackensack, N.J., before joining Newsday in 1996.

Described by colleagues as a tenacious, hard-nosed street reporter, Terrazzano covered a variety of beats, most recently as a child welfare/social services reporter. She began writing the column, "Life, With Cancer," in October 2006.

She wrote about the inappropriate things people say to cancer patients because they don't know what else to say, and about breaking the myth that people with cancer are heroes "when really we're just like everyone else."

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"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."

Terrazzano had smoked off and on for about five years before her September 2004 cancer diagnosis, rarely enough that she said her oncologists considered her a nonsmoker. About 20 percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer are not smokers.

"I don't know what possessed me to ask the oncologist how long I have left," Terrazzano wrote about a month before her death. "In the nearly three years I've been battling this disease, I've never asked for my prognosis. I hate that word. But my body has betrayed me lately, more than usual."

Terrazzano's column won praise from other cancer patients, as well as professional honors.

She was to be honored Thursday for winning the top prize in the science/health reporting category of a contest run by the Silurians, the oldest press club in the United States.

"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."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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