Already a published author and CNN video-journalist at nineteen, Dawn came into her twenties with a belief that Story can inspire people think and act. She also had mysterious illness. The entertainment industry was no place for someone with a debilitating ailment. After graduation, Dawn abandoned a promising writing career for the stability of corporate communications. She muscled through crippling symptoms to write in her bed at night.
Days after the staged reading of her choreoplay, she received call from her doctor.
There was a lesion on her brain. Its location in the right parieto-occipital lobe made a biopsy extremely dangerous. For two years, Dawn and her mother became a team, poring over research papers and marching from doctor to doctor until an eventual biopsy revealed an answer: Dawn had a benign, but rare ganglioglioma brain tumor. Dawn’s doctors were stumped for a cure until Dawn’s mother discovered promising research at the Cleveland Clinic.
Dawn and her doctors pleaded with her health insurance company for out-of-network coverage at one of the few facilities that could provide treatment. Their hopes fell one rejection after another arrived refusing coverage. Dawn refused to back down. Stories from fellow patients in her brain tumor support group strengthened her resolve to speak up for herself and other Americans.
When political juggernaut MoveOn.org called for health care stories, Dawn answered and quickly became the subject of a petition, which garnered over 100,000 signatures and media attention. CIGNA quickly relented and offered coverage for one week of testing. Coverage to treat Dawn’s brain tumor was still up in the air.
The former writer and MoveOn.org embarked on a five-state tour, visiting small businesses, churches and homes, collecting over 20,000 health care stories. In face-to-face meetings with lawmakers in Washington D.C. and CIGNA executives in Philadelphia, Dawn delivered America’s stories as if they were her own.
Dawn was uncomfortable with the label of health care victim because her mother and grandmother, a pre-civil rights era teacher, raised her not to be one. The inaccurate brand, coupled with and growing strains on her health and finances, forced her to leave the Stand with Dawn campaign. She closed her writing business and relinquished her health insurance months later. As she weathered an unsuccessful radiation treatment, which zapped her writing skill, the common thread of strength in the health care stories provided her a spark of inspiration.
Dawn could use storytelling as a means of therapy. She slowly started fighting for her comeback story and others by resurrecting It Could Happen to Anyone using assistive technology.
Crawling forward involves a series of starts and stumbles. Please be patient. Our stories deserve celebration and action.