Laurie Mezzalingua was an outspoken advocate for breast cancer survivors after having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 at the age of 29. She refocused her career to fight this disease and became a passionate advocate of patient support.
Born in Manlius, NY on June 10, 1968, Laurie Mezzalingua was the third of six children. A lifelong learner, she graduated from Manlius Pebble Hill in 1986 and Boston University, where she double-majored in Chinese History and Communications, in 1990.
Prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Laurie was active in PPC, her family’s business. She served in a variety of roles and was most proud of being the founding president of Kajola Kristada, a manufacturing company based in the Caribbean on the island of St. Kitts, W. I.
In 1997, Laurie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29. As she battled the disease, she became a passionate and vocal advocate for patient support. Her voice and sharp leadership skills were recognized and called to action when she became president of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She held that position for two years and served on its board for six, twice chairing the Race for the Cure event. Her involvement was so impactful that the national office honored her with the National Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2005.
Laurie loved music all her life and studied piano, with her first recital in 2005. She was a self-taught and gifted video editor who created landmark moments of her family and friends’ lives as moving tributes. Her favorite subjects were her nieces and nephews.
Laurie was a favorite among her family and friends as godmother to their children, earning that honor six times. She loved the authenticity and kindness of children and connected with them on all levels. This enthusiasm led her parents in 2005 to gift a building that houses all of the pre-K and kindergarten programs on the Manlius Pebble Hill Campus and was named The Laurie Mezzalingua Early Education Center.
She had an unusual gift for expressing herself in her speeches and in her writing, with grace, feeling and clarity. She was named 2005 Citizen of the Year by Temple Adath Yeshurun and was the 2006 commencement speaker at Manlius Pebble Hill School. On both occasions she spoke movingly about the ability to see the remarkable in her cancer diagnosis. She said “There is more beauty, triumph and truth in an infusion room than you will ever see on a stage, in a stadium, or in song.”
She was as loved as she was loving. “Everything she did was from the heart,” said Msgr. Yeazel, her pastor at Holy Cross Church. “I would visit to provide support in her final days, and she would ask ‘What is it that can I do for you?’ Her sense of humor and compassion resulted in instant connections with people she knew and those she just met.” Laurie’s devotion to God and her enduring faith brought her peace. Her daily prayers always began with an expression of gratitude for all her blessings and acceptance of her disease. She was comforted in the knowledge that she would be welcomed by her family and friends who went before her. Highlights of her life included her pilgrimages to Our Lady’s Shrine in Lourdes, France where she traveled and volunteered helping the sick with the Order of Malta.
Laurie’s departure on the Fourth of July, 2009 was symbolic. She was an elegant and independent woman who charted her own course in life. She had the courage to challenge her western doctors for more than they were able to give, the grace to accept their limitations, and the will to proceed into alternative Chinese therapies that extended her life by more than six years. She had a beautiful life.