"Lauren always wanted to write a book, and I decided one day I was going to write one for her," said former Tewksbury resident Frank Terrazzano.
His book, Life, with Cancer: The Lauren Terrazzano Story, which he co-authored with Paul Lonardo, will be released Oct. 2.
The only child of Terrazzano and his wife Virginia, Lauren graduated from Tewksbury Memorial High School, Boston University and the Columbia School of Journalism. She was a Newsday columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who wrote about societal problems. In 2007, Lauren died at 39 from lung cancer.
"She was the voice for those who didn't have it," according to Terrazzano, who now lives in Hull. Writing with passion, she wrote features on the night court in NYC and did a series on nursing home security after an Alzheimer's patient wandered off and was found dead. The investigative story spurred legislation and a commendation from then New York Gov. George Pataki.
In her short life, Lauren won numerous awards for her journalism, including sharing a Pulitzer Prize with her colleagues for coverage of the TWA Flight 800 crash off Long Island in 1996, and the Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism for her work about children and families. Quindlen wrote the forward for the book.
When at 36, Lauren, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer, she fought it with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
"It took her a month to tell us because she referred to us as 'Mr. and Mrs. Helicopter' and (knew) that we would take it badly," Terrazzano said. "She was right," he added.
Calling his daughter courageous in her struggle, he explained that she never waivered in her determination to write or do something "for the little guy." While her cancer was in remission, Lauren went to Guatemala soon after Hurricane Stan to visit a friend. Witnessing the devastation from the hurricane, she convinced the U.S. Army command there to let her fly with them on a mercy mission to deliver food to villages, he said.
But when the cancer came back in the Fall of 2006, Lauren fought it with words. Her editor gave her a weekly column titled, Life, with Cancer, and for 8 months, she not only shared her experiences, but wanted to erase the stigma associated with lung cancer, Terrazzano said.
"She received postcards from people all over the country and the world," he said. After her death, Terrazzano was able to get permission from Newsday to put together a booklet of her columns to give out to hospitals and cancer patients.
But the book, Life, with Cancer is more about Lauren's work as a social journalist then her cancer, he explained. Even the column and the book's name emphasize Life by separating it from Cancer with a comma.
Terrazzano wants the book to be an inspiration to young journalists. He said Lauren's passion for writing began early in her life, and her favorite books were the Nancy Drew series. In high school, she wrote for the school newspaper and the Tewksbury Town Crier.
Although Terrazzano worked for 34 years at Louise's Pasta in Revere, he was an part-time photographer and avid kite flyer. He explained that that he and Lauren loved flying kites together, and he commemorates the May 15 anniversary of her death by flying a kite on a beach with her picture.
The idea for the book came to him one day while reminiscing about his daughter in 2010. "I wrote about 50-60 pages, then I had writer's block," he explained.
But soon after seeing Lonardo in February 2011 being interviewed by WCVB TV's Susan Wornick with co-author Jeannie McDonough about their book, Caught in the Act, he decided to contact him.
Lonardo said he was not initially sold on the idea.
"It was a very personal and moving story for sure, but I didn't think we would be able to interest a publisher," he said. He said it was after he learned more about Lauren from others and her career as a journalist, he became convinced that "it was her life story-not just her death story-was one people would want to read about especially, as an inspiration to young female journalists."
Describing Terrazzano as an enthusiastic, passionate and optimistic person, Lonardo said, "he made it easier for me to develop a powerful book proposal which was needed to attract a publisher."
After a number of rejections, HCI signed on, and a year and a half later after Terrazzano contacted him, the book is in print, he said.
"I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with Frank on his daughter's biography. It ended up becoming the most fufilling book I have collaborated on. Now to see this amazing book in print, and the way it has been received so far, it is very exhilarating for me. I can only imagine what it is like for Frank," Lonardo said.
Terrazzano said that he said that proceeds from book sales will go toward a scholarship in Lauren's name at Columbia University, the Joanie Award and the Lung Cancer Alliance.
He said that he and his wife are most proud of the scholarship that was set up the same year Lauren died. Initially funded from monies the Terrazzanos had put away for their daughter, it has grown through donations from former classmates, colleagues and other generous poeple.
The book can be pre-ordered through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com said Terrazzano.