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New York Times' Criticism Of Connecticut Woman's Cancer Fight Sparks Debate

Lisa Bonchek Adams of Darien was criticized for her use of social media to document her fight against breast cancer in a story in The New York Times. The commentary has sent the Internet ablaze in support of Adams.
Lisa Bonchek Adams of Darien was criticized for her use of social media to document her fight against breast cancer in a story in The New York Times. The commentary has sent the Internet ablaze in support of Adams. Photo Credit: Facebook/Lisa Adams

DARIEN, Conn. – After a Darien woman who has taken to social media to detail her battle with breast cancer was criticized in an op-ed Monday in The New York Times, readers have lit up the Internet to weigh in on the debate between Lisa Bonchek Adams and writer Bill Keller.

Adams has been fighting breast cancer for the past seven years. She runs a website that documents her battle by writing about “my experiences as a wife and young mother of three with breast cancer.”

She began by posting on her Facebook page, it says on her website. “I was writing about the darker, richer emotions I was feeling – aimlessness, fear, despair – but also the dogged commitment to always be strong with an enthusiasm for life,’’ she writes.

Adams is also active in Twitter , where she recently posted her 165,000th Tweets, many of them about breast cancer.

Keller, former Times executive editor who is now a columnist for The Times, takes issue with Adams' social posts and the aggressive treatment she is receiving from the medical team at Sloan-Kettering in New York despite her grim diagnosis. He illustrates his point with reference to his father-in-law, who died 2012 in England.

“What Britain and other countries know, and my country is learning, is that every cancer need not be Verdun, a war of attrition waged regardless of the cost or the casualties,’’ he writes. “It seemed to me, and still does, that there is something enviable about going gently. One intriguing lung cancer study even suggests that patients given early palliative care instead of the most aggressive chemotherapy not only have a better quality of life, they actually live a bit longer.”

Keller’s wife, Emma, also wrote an article on Adams’ cancer fight on The Guardian , where she also criticized Adams. The post was taken down by the news outlet for violating the paper’s editorial code, according to Slate.com

According to a story in The Nation on Monday, Emma Keller wrote that Adams is “dying out loud”, and compared it to a “Reality TV show.” The headline on Emma Keller’s story read “Forget funeral selfies. What are the ethics of tweeting terminal illness.”

The commentary by both Kellers ignited a firestorm of criticism of both writers. The Washington Post wrote a story detailing the criticism of the Kellers. Bloggers across the country, many of them cancer patients and survivors, have taken to the web to condemn the couple and praise Adams.

Adams has remained undeterred from criticism by the Kellers. On her Twitter account on Tuesday, she wrote “sharing some of the science of my cancer treatment in an understandable way helps current and future patients and their family members.”

Later in the day, she seemed to be growing weary of the attention. “I am not granting any interviews,’’ she wrote. “Please do not make any requests. I am focusing on cancer treatment only. Thanks.”