Lisa Boncheck Adams, of Connecticut, a prominent cancer blogger, died Friday of stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She was diagnosed in her late 30s in December, 2006. She spent more than five years writing about her struggle with the disease as it spread, and how living with cancer affected her family. The news was announced on her Twitter page and on her website, lisabadams.com.
She logged more than 176,000 tweets — many about her treatment, many others about “finding a bit of beauty,” a personal mantra — since 2009 and had more than 15,000 followers on Twitter. She also started the hashtag #mondaypleads to encourage people to get to doctors’ appointments they have been postponing, and she raised money for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she was a patient.
In 2014, Adams was at the center of a controversy about whether her online writings had been a public service. Bill Keller, former executive editor of The New York Times, wrote an opinion piece questioning Adams’s “war of attrition” with cancer, and how it differed strikingly from his father-in-law’s “peaceful” death from cancer.
“His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America,” Keller wrote.
That same week, Keller’s wife, Emma, also wrote what The Columbia Journalism Review called a “controversial” piece about Adams for The Guardian newspaper, but the article was removed from its website. The article apparently quoted from direct messages on Twitter that Emma Keller shared with Adams, but Keller didn’t tell Adams she was writing a piece about her. Emma Keller resigned from The Guardian two months after the article appeared. The readers’ editor at The GuardianChris Elliot explained the deletion: “I don’t think it is wrong to frame a question about how those with incurable illnesses use social media, but the Guardian was wrong in the way it went about it.”
Many of Adams’s friends and followers have taken to social media to grieve her death, using the hashtag #RememberLisa.