Monday, October 01, 2007

If you won't take my advice...

then maybe my friend Stephanie's story will have an impact.

When I moved to Rhode Island in 2000, I left a job I loved and a close group of friends, in a city I'd come to see as home. Chris is an academic, so he made friends at work, but I struggled to meet people in a place where most of the residents are natives. Almost everyone I met had lived in Rhode Island their entire lives, had the same friends they'd had since before kindergarten, and though they were kind, it was clear that they were not looking to make new friends. I really struggled to find friends, and in the end one of my favorite people in Rhode Island did not even live in the state.

Stephanie Williams was the girlfriend of one of Chris's colleagues. Every other weekend she would take the train from New York City to visit him. A journalist, Stephanie was interesting, funny and smart. Some of my favorite moments in Rhode Island were spent in the company of Stephanie and her boyfriend Dan. Chris and I liked them enough that we we saw them in New York too. We went to NYC regularly to see family, and we'd meet up for brunch or pizza.

Shortly before we met, Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 30. One of the things that impressed me about Stephanie was that despite dealing with cancer (surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation), she was always interested in other people. Maybe because she was a journalist, she tended to look out into the world rather than retreat into her own pain.

Stephanie fought her cancer for three years. She ultimately died, but not before fulfilling a dream to write a novel. Her book, Enter Sandman was published in 2004, the summer she died. Stephanie's story, including her struggle with cancer and her decision to use her limited time to write a book, was featured in a number of national and local publications. She herself wrote an article for Glamour that was published after her death. Her alma mater wrote a a very nice article about her.

It is terrible that Stephanie died so young, but you can do something to help ensure that you and your loved ones do not. Please do monthly self breast exams, and please get an annual exam every year. This is a great start for young women, especially those of us who are generally healthy and do not see ourselves at being at risk for cancer. If you do not know how to do a monthly exam, click here. Most insurance covers annual exams with either a very low or no copayment. It is more than worth the $10 doctor fee and an hour of your time. I know you are busy, but really, this seems like a good use of time. I hope the men in my readership will urge their loved ones to do these exams as well.

I thought to tell you this because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but you should do an exam every month. Even though I admit that I have not been so good about this in the past, I'll promise if you do too.


  1. What a sad story. I think these kind of stories about real people are so much more effective in encouraging people to do monthly exams than a recitation of the (admittedly scary) statistics about breast cancer.

  2. i do need to be better about this. my mom is a 10 year survivor (go mom!), so you'd think i'd know better. but i can't remember the last time i did a self-exam. thanks for the reminder.

  3. I need to be better about this. Thank you for helping me remember.