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May 2003
144 pages  
62 b&w illustrations
9.625 X 10
9780822942122
Hardcover $32.00 Add to cart

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Knowing Stephanie
Brodsky, Charlee, Byram, Stephanie, Matesa, Jennifer
Stephanie Byram was an active, athletic young woman entering the prime of her life. She held dreams of earning her doctorate, pursing a career, falling in love, and starting a family. A doctor's visit, shortly after her thirtieth birthday, changed everything.

She had been concerned about a painful, swollen right breast, and tests confirmed the presence of a tumor. Stephanie was diagnosed with highly aggressive, highly malignant breast cancer-Stage IIIb infiltrative ductal carcinoma-and within two months she underwent a double mastectomy. Doctors gave her a 50 percent chance of surviving five years.

Despite this prognosis, Stephanie looked to the future, and refused to be deterred by the obstacles thrown suddenly into her path. Though she was rarely cancer-free and suffered recurrences that were progressively more invasive and damaging to her body, over the course of the next eight years she would live a life of her choosing.

Knowing Stephanie is a photographic essay that details the remarkable story of one woman’s fight against breast cancer—and how she channeled her ever-waning energy to transform her life and enrich her spirit.
Charlee Brodsky, a professor of photography at Carnegie Mellon University, is the coauthor of Pittsburgh Revealed: Photographs Since 1850, A Town Without Steel: Envisioning Homestead, and, with Jennifer Matesa, Navel-Gazing: The Days and Nights of a Mother in the Making. Brodsky and Matesa have both won numerous awards for their work, and both live in Pittsburgh.
"An epic journey of courage. . . . In her dying [Stephanie] became ever more fully alive. In losing her breasts to cancer, she became ever more womanly. . . . Throughout all of the progressive losses, she grew more open, more loving, more beautiful and more whole. That makes Stephanie Byram a heroine for us all."—Ira Byock, M.D., author of Dying Well, coauthor of A Few Months to Live

"Knowing Stephanie provides us with an excellent model of the patient fully determined to fight the ravages of breast cancer. . . . In an elegant struggle and wonderful dance of life, she encourages all of us to live each day to the fullest."—Deborah Willis, author of The Black Female Body: A Photographic History

"This moving account of one woman’s battle with breast cancer is unforgettable. . . . Stephanie’s journey is an inspiration to us all, and a piece of art as well."—Joyce Tenneson, author of Wise Women and Light Warriors

"Knowing Stephanie is not just any photodocumentary, and it is not just for breast cancer patients and those who love them. . . . It is a book about vitality, love, friendship, the complexity of a fierce human spirit and, yes, it is about dying. An amazing and beautiful work of art and life, I could not put it down. Anyone who experiences this book will remember it forever."—Alicia Suskin Ostriker, award-winning author of The Little Space and the volcano sequence

“The work here is intimate, personal, expansive, and universal; Byram is seen at all angles and attitudes. Coauthor Matesa presents a detailed biography of Byram that puts the project into context. We know the outcome of this book before it starts; but meeting Byram and learning of her goals are inspiring nonetheless. Recommended for patient-health collections.”—Library Journal, April 1, 2003

Knowing Stephanie is a beautiful gift and I am amazed at how a woman I will never meet in this life has affected my life in a profound way. I am also deeply touched by the sheer beauty of the souls who surrounded Stephanie during a time when she became so very human and vulnerable.”--The Rebecca Review.com, July 9, 2003

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Stephanie Byram was an active, athletic young woman entering the prime of her life. She held dreams of earning her doctorate, pursing a career, falling in love, and starting a family. A doctor's visit, shortly after her thirtieth birthday, changed everything.

She had been concerned about a painful, swollen right breast, and tests confirmed the presence of a tumor. Stephanie was diagnosed with highly aggressive, highly malignant breast cancer-Stage IIIb infiltrative ductal carcinoma-and within two months she underwent a double mastectomy. Doctors gave her a 50 percent chance of surviving five years.

Despite this prognosis, Stephanie looked to the future, and refused to be deterred by the obstacles thrown suddenly into her path. Though she was rarely cancer-free and suffered recurrences that were progressively more invasive and damaging to her body, over the course of the next eight years she would live a life of her choosing.

Stephanie fell in love, married, and bought a home. She earned her Ph.D., and even found the time and energy to revise her dissertation topic to how women make medical decisions after they have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. She traveled to London, Tibet, and Hawaii; went on safari in Zambia and Botswana, rang in the millennium atop the Great Barrier Reef; hiked the grueling, thirty-five-mile Inca trail to Machu Picchu on her honeymoon, just weeks after a devastating recurrence; and visited the Grand Canyon before her death in June 2001.

Stephanie came to appreciate the details and experiences found in a typical day. Learning to live in the moment, she found joy while playing with her cats, tending her garden, observing the birds jostling at the feeder, walking in the park by moonlight, laughing with friends. And running.

Always an avid runner, Stephanie placed even greater importance on the sport following her diagnosis. She vowed to be the first person to run in each Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and would eventually run in thirty out of sixty-one events. To help publicize this uncommon feat, she approached Charlee Brodsky about taking some photographs for inclusion in a press packet. What eventually evolved was much more.

As their working relationship grew, so did their bond. Stephanie was Brodsky's subject, but they became collaborators and closer friends. They developed art exhibitions, a video, and often gave lectures, presentations, and inspirational talks to groups across the country. And, now, together they have created this book. Knowing Stephanie combines Brodsky's photographs and Stephanie's dialogue, which along with Jennifer Matesa's biographical essay, "Reconstructing a Life," paints a complete and compelling portrait of an extraordinary woman.

For Stephanie, this project was an opportunity to visualize herself-her life and her body-differently. According to Brodsky, "She was able to transform her profound disappointment with the cards she was dealt into a life that was about living." In so doing, Stephanie has provided a treasure for us all.

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