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Between the Lines: Karen Sly Miller

When we profiled a radiant Jane Rodney, director of

the Princeton YWCA’s Breast Cancer Resource Center and chair of New

Jersey’s Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure, on the cover

of U.S. 1 earlier this year (May 5, 1999), our staff had more than

a casual interest in the story.

One of our own staffers, graphic artist Karen Miller, had just been diagnosed

with breast cancer and even as we were reporting on the Jane Rodney

story, Karen was becoming one of the many clients of Rodney and the

Breast Cancer Resource Center. We all learned a great deal about the

disease and its treatment through the article and through Karen’s

first-hand experiences with the medical community.

And our spirit and hopes were all lifted by Rodney’s pragmatic advice

and inspired counseling for women with breast cancer. What were the

treatment options? Jane Rodney helped our Karen Miller think through

the pros and cons. What if her insurance company refused to pay for

the expensive treatment? Rodney referred her to the center’s insurance

consultant. Did she want to wear a wig? The center has a library of

wigs, but Karen chose proudly to go bald. At each step of a difficult

path, Karen could get compassionate, knowledgeable advice. We saw

first hand what our newspaper story had described in the third person.

As that U.S. 1 story noted, Rodney herself has fought one of the more

aggressive forms of the disease for the past 11 years. In 1988, Rodney

had been diagnosed with breast cancer and since then she has coped

not only with treatment of that disease, but also uterine cancer.

Rodney received a stem cell transplant in 1998 (just as Karen would)

and chemotherapy over and over. For all that treatment, Jane Rodney

has been fortunate to find the strength to organize one of the most

comprehensive resource centers in the state.

But our story is different from Rodney’s story. Last Thursday, September

2, while half our staff was running the U.S. 1 Technology Showcase

at the Doral Forrestal Hotel and the other half was struggling to

put out this issue in an abbreviated work week, we received the sad

news: Karen Miller had died after going through one of the most aggressive

— and potentially dangerous — forms of chemotherapy. Our workplace

became very quiet, very quickly.

Karen Miller was Karen Sly when she joined our staff in 1994. She

had been employed at the Princeton Packet, assigned to the night shift

there. Longing for a day job so that she could spend more time with

her children, she jumped at the opportunity to work regular hours

(more or less) at U.S. 1.

Here at 12 Roszel Road Karen not only designed and produced complex

display ads, and helped to build our cover designs, but she also —

in the U.S. 1 tradition of everyone ready to help at every level —

took classified ads and was our office quartermaster. She seemed to

have the quickest hands in the office, as well: She was U.S. 1’s fastest

typist by a long shot, and more often than not she won the battle

to see who could answer the phone first. She was one of the few at

U.S. 1 who remembered the days of Compugraphic typesetters and Agfa

stat cameras. Fortunately for us, she also liked to read the words

she typed and we have all been saved by Karen from embarrassing typographical


Last year we helped celebrate her marriage to Jim Miller. We all traveled

up to Succasunna to the Miller family homestead to meet Karen’s family:

Daughter Kelly, son Nathan, parents Lester and Patricia Sly, a brother,

four sisters, and many in-laws and nieces and nephews. It was a bright

beginning. Thinking back to that day reminds us of Jane Rodney’s response

when we asked her how she perseveres in the face of a deadly disease:

"I was terminal the day I was born," Rodney told U.S. 1. "I

decided not to focus on when I am going to die, but how well I am

going to live."

Now Jane Rodney is back at the helm of the 1999 Race for the Cure.

The kick-off party will be Wednesday, September 22, at 5:30 p.m. at

Johnson & Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick. Admission: $19. Call


Hundreds of breast cancer survivors are expected to join this year’s

Race for the Cure, which takes place on Sunday, October 3, at Bristol-Myers

Squibb. The annual run raises funds for research and for providing

the medically under-served free and low-cost screen mammography and

breast health education. For race information call 609-252-2008. To

reach the resource center call 609-252-2003.

And most appropriately, Karen’s family has asked that memorial contributions

be made to the Breast Cancer Resource Center, Montgomery Commons,

914 Commons Way, Princeton 08540. U.S. 1’s check is in the mail.

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