Latest Scholarship

October 5, 2016

Lesley's Story

King Hall's Professor Lesley McAllister is an accomplished teacher and scholar of environmental law, natural resources law, food law, energy law, and property law. Sadly, our beloved colleague is also battling terminal cancer. Last year, she advocated for California's End of Life Option Act, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2015 and took effect on June 9, 2016.

Professor McAllister recently shared her story with the magazine of her alma mater, Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW). An excerpt:

"You may be interested in my story," the email read, "and if so, I could be interested in sharing it."

PAW hears from a lot of readers, but this message, received on the first morning of Reunions last May, jumped off the screen. Like hundreds of her classmates, Lesley McAllister '91 was returning to celebrate her 25th. Unlike them, she knew that the visit would likely be her last.

As she explained in her message, the 46-year-old mother of two and law professor at the University of California, Davis, is fighting metastatic cancer, a fight she is certain to lose. Radiation treatments over the summer have robbed her of her hair, which had grown back since her first round of chemotherapy two and a half years ago, shortly before an operation to remove her cancerous right lung. Surgery to remove lesions on her adrenal gland, liver, and pancreas left her with debilitating pancreatitis and a wound that has not fully healed. Once an avid hiker, she now moves slowly and speaks in little more than a whisper until her pain medications kick in.

McAllister's days are numbered, but the uncertainty surrounding that certainty is part of cancer's cruelty. In his posthumously published memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, Stanford University neurosurgical resident Paul Kalanithi wrote, "Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. But now I knew it acutely." That is where McAllister sits now.

To read the full article, simply titled "Lesley's Story," visit https://paw.princeton.edu/article/lesleys-story.