“If I sound a little angry, it’s because I am,” Robin Stone told me, the first time I spoke to her on the phone, just a couple months before she passed away on November 3, ending her battle with thyroid cancer.
She had told me her story, a chronological look at the events that fell on an unfortunate timeline; a situation that quickly stranded her with cancer and without health insurance.
I asked her what political action she hoped to see from telling her story.
Her response wasn’t about creating a policy, it wasn’t about messaging in a campaign; it was for politicians, and people fighting to tear down health care, to recognize her reality.
“I’d like them to tell me what they would have done in my position,” Stone explained. “I lost my employer-provided insurance, and I have cancer; what in the hell do you expect me to do?”
Even before her cancer diagnosis, Stone was insulin-dependent, jumping through hoops to get her medication and using her voice to stand up for medical injustices in the United States.
But when she found herself without health insurance, after her employer abruptly cancelled one of the coverages they offered just a short while after her diagnosis, sharing her story and fighting for her life became more urgent than she’d ever thought.
“I’m taking anger and turning it into being an advocate,” she said.
A Brave Voice
In April, Stone had a confrontation with Senator Chuck Grassley at a town hall, where she told him, “You’re threatening my life.”
“Answer me personally, as a person whose life depends on insurance—I would be dead in 60 days or less without the Affordable Care Act,” Stone said to Grassley.
The moment was recorded on film and picked up traction, which led to Stone appearing on MSNBC to talk about the incident.
Stone’s voice was never silenced, and she fought relentlessly to spread her message and gain traction for the health care discussion happening in America.
In September, Stone spoke with us at Starting Line, continuing to tell her story and push the conversation forward. But still, Stone had choice words to Iowa’s senators for voting to tear down health care coverage and threaten protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“I would love to be locked in a room for an hour with Joni Ernst. I want to hear what her solution would be to my problem,” Stone said. “I don’t know if they don’t understand, or if they don’t want to understand. But I would love the opportunity to ask them, ‘what would you do in my position?'”
Just a few days ago, Stone left her last personal stamp on the digital world. This time, her tone was somber with a warning, but it was still Robin turning her anger into activism.
@ChuckGrassley you won’t have to worry about me bugging you about the ACA. I have Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer and will die soon. But there’s a whole army of activists picking up where I’m leaving off. You’re a coward
— robin stone (@robinstone12) November 1, 2019
Robin’s daughter Katie posted a follow-up tonight, letting Grassley know that the end of Robin’s fight didn’t mean the end of the fight against the war on health care.
@ChuckGrassley my mother robin stone passed last night…. I am her new voice. You will not silence me.
— Katie mitchell (@KatieKitka) November 4, 2019
Words of Support
After news broke of Robin Stone’s passing, leaders from Iowa and elsewhere sent kind words, including Representative Abby Finkenauer, the Iowa Democratic Party, Black Hawk County Supervisor Chris Schwartz, and Senate candidates Theresa Greenfield and Kimberly Graham.
I am in every sense, heartbroken.Robin wasn’t just a county chair, an advocate, a force to be reckoned with, she was our friend and one of the most caring and also funny and loving people I have ever known. She inspired me everyday and we will carry her with us always. ??? https://t.co/F0n9E6OiG7
— Abby Finkenauer (@Abby4Iowa) November 3, 2019
I'm heartbroken to hear about the passing of Robin Stone, Delaware County party chair and my friend. In the too brief months I was lucky to know her, we shared laughter, tears, and anger at injustices, especially in healthcare. I will keep fighting. Love you, Robin. kg
— Kimberly Graham For US Senate (IA) (@KimberlyforIowa) November 3, 2019
Robin Stone was such an amazing person. My love goes out to everyone feeling the sadness of this loss. Robin touched our hearts in ways we will never forget. https://t.co/KjQ8gTet0A
— Chris Schwartz (@SchwartzForIowa) November 3, 2019
Robin Stone was a steadfast leader with a heart of gold, and I'm so sad to see cancer took her from us far too early. I am thinking of her family and friends in Delaware County today.
— Theresa Greenfield (@GreenfieldIowa) November 3, 2019
“Robin Stone was one of the most dedicated and committed activists I have ever worked with, and it is why we are all so heartbroken to hear of her passing. As chair of the Delaware County Democrats, she brought so much new energy to that rural county, that now their county central committees regularly sees more than 100 people in attendance,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price. “She gave voice to those who often cannot speak due to illness. She fought back against a broken health care system and was not afraid to stand up to politicians who tried to roll back the very health care that she relied upon to stay alive.
“We must do as she did and never be afraid to talk about how we can change our state and country for the better. Robin will be missed, but never forgotten. Iowa Democrats hold her family, loved ones, and friends in our thoughts.”
By Josh Cook