When Melanie Shouse began feeling ill, eventually finding a lump in her breast, she couldn't afford a doctor. She and her partner had just used their savings to open a business. A year later, doctors told her she had terminal, stage four breast cancer.
She spent the next 4½ years fighting for health care reform that she didn't live to see pass.Ms. Shouse died Saturday (Jan. 30, 2010) at her home in Overland. She was 41. In addition to advocating affordable health care for everyone, she was an activist for clean energy, economic reform and public transportation.
She took the bus to and from her chemotherapy appointments in the Central West End. Then she'd pick up a sign or banner and walk a picket line. "This was an extraordinary woman, who never gave up hope that she could make a difference," said Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation.
Ms. Shouse grew up in Indiana, graduated from high school in Plano, Texas, and then from Texas A&M University with a major in biology. She moved to San Francisco, where she met her future partner, Steve Hart, on a picket line. They were together for 20 years. They moved to St. Louis and opened Sweet Meat Stix in St. Ann, selling meat from humanely raised beef.
She set goals for surviving her cancer. She campaigned for Barack Obama for president, telling herself she had to make it through the primaries, then Election Day and, later, the inaugural. In a speech in November at the Arch grounds, she spoke about the need to "take on the Big Insurance Monopoly and liberate American families from the slavery of skyrocketing insurance premiums and canceled coverage, which leave millions of us in a state of perpetual fear and insecurity .
Using herself as an example, Ms. Shouse said she had put off going to a doctor because her health insurance policy had a $5,000 deductible.
She called it "'hit by a bus' kind of insurance." When the insurance company wouldn't pay for a treatment that Ms. Shouse
believed would help her, friends protested at the company.