Living with lung cancer gracefully was a feat in itself, but chronicling every step of the disease and inspiring others was a courageous act. Joyce (Lippa) Rothman, who wrote Lessons from Cancer — a column that was published by The Herald News in Fall River, Mass., and distributed through GateHouse Media — died July 25.
Living with lung cancer gracefully was a feat in itself, but chronicling every step of the disease and inspiring others was a courageous act.
Joyce (Lippa) Rothman, who wrote Lessons from Cancer — a column that was published by The Herald News in Fall River, Mass., and distributed through GateHouse Media — died July 25.
Rothman, 64, wrote articles that appeared on about 400 Gatehouse Media websites and in newspapers around the country.
Rothman, who worked in the nursing field for four decades, was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago. Soon after, cancer was also discovered in her pancreas. She began writing a blog about her experience in October 2010.
The blog was poignant, reflective, heartbreaking, cheerful, hopeful and informative. It took readers on a journey through Rothman’s life interrupted by cancer, through her good days and bad days, to doctor’s appointments, radiation treatments and family gatherings.
Herald News Associate Publisher and Editor Lisa Strattan said she was a reader of Rothman’s column and found her to be “remarkably candid” and “courageous.”
“She was one determined lady, both in the way she approached her disease and the way she approached life,” Strattan said. “I never met Joyce, but I still felt a connection with her. I know it was one shared with all of her readers. You just felt as if you really knew her after reading her column.”
Lessons from Cancer gave Rothman hope while stirring the emotions of many readers.
In Rothman’s own words: “By writing about the raw experience of coping with lung and pancreas cancer, I find the answers and guidance I need to help me find courage, lose fear and keep hope. It has made my days so much easier, and my sincerest wish is that, in sharing what I learn, I might also help someone else going through a difficult life challenge.”
Reader Angela Foley said she would miss Rothman’s column.
“She was very strong and very brave,” Foley said. “She taught people about what she was going through and offset it with her hope and faith.”
Another fan of Lessons from Cancer, Ellie Leite, said she and her prayer group, Prayer Net Team from Calvary Temple in Fall River, had been praying for Rothman for about a year.
“We didn’t know her personally, but we were very sad,” Leite said. “She fought a gallant fight. She was an inspiration to everyone. She touched our lives, thousands of lives.”
Rothman — a mother, grandmother, sister and friend — was probably closest to her daughter Karen Robinson.
In Rothman’s June 8, blog, “Cherish friends and family,” Rothman seemed to be writing a thank you and farewell letter to her only child.
“My daughter has been absolutely incredible, and this is the hardest thing that she’s ever had to do,” Rothman wrote. “Everything pretty much falls on her shoulders, and not having any siblings or first cousins makes it even harder. She deserves incredible credit and a standing ovation. I am so grateful and proud to call her my daughter.”
“I’m so proud of my mother,” Robinson said. “She just always believed. She didn’t give up. She was incredibly strong. I never saw anything like it.”
Robinson said her mother fought with “dignity and grace” and felt love from her readers who sent her comments from all over the country.
“I don’t think she would have lasted as long as she did if she didn’t have her blog,” Robinson said. “She inspired people. She really held onto her hope.”
Email Deborah Allard at firstname.lastname@example.org.