A survivor joins the mission

TBBCF’s new feature writer

Melissa Babcock Johnson learned she had breast cancer in 2015 when she was only 31. Never known for being a private person, she decided to write a monthly column about it for the newspaper where she works.

Now, she’s replacing Kathleen Edgecomb as TBBCF’s feature writer. Edgecomb, also a survivor, recommended Johnson for the position.

TBBCF President Patti Burmahl said, “Melissa has been a big supporter of the foundation for years and was our honorary walk chair in 2016. Add to this her wonderful writing talents, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her join our team and help to share our stories.”

Johnson lives in Waterford with her husband, Travis, and Chinese exchange student, Zihan. She has worked since 2006 as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines published by The Day and also teaches at Mitchell College in New London. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative and professional writing from Western Connecticut State University.

TBBCF Co-founder Sandy Maniscalco came across Johnson’s columns in The Day and invited her to be an honorary walk chair for 2016’s annual Walk for a Cure.

Maniscalco said, “I am thrilled Mel Johnson is joining the foundation’s communications and marketing team as our new feature writer. Not only is she an award-winning reporter, but she is also a young breast cancer survivor who is totally relatable and capable of bringing humor and sincerity to a not humorous topic.”

The New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA) awarded Johnson’s columns first place in the “Serious Columnist” category in 2016.

A competition judge explained, “Her tone is confiding, hopeful, vulnerable as she reveals every scary step she takes. Her conversation with the reader has a spontaneous aspect, though it is clear her writing is concisely crafted. Purposeful writing that moves a reader to action. Hundreds will make an appointment for mammograms immediately. I did.”

That was one of Johnson’s reasons for sharing her experience so openly with nearly 100,000 potential readers.

“I wanted others who might be going through this to know they weren’t alone, and that humor can often help you through a difficult situation,” she said. “I also wanted to raise awareness that young people and men can get breast cancer. Believe it or not, my father is a breast cancer survivor too!”

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