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Cancer Walk breakfast recognizes nurse whose self-written obituary drew international praise

Knowing that she was losing her long battle with stage 4 biliary cancer, Paxton wife and mother-of-two Beth O’Rourke, a nurse practitioner on the cancer team at UMass Memorial Medical Center, prepared for her death by writing her own obituary. She addressed her thoughts directly to her family, friends and cancer doctors at UMass Memorial Health Care. O’Rourke died on April 16, and her heartfelt and powerful obituary was shared around the world. 

“Of all the things I did in this life, nothing compared to being with Brendan and our children,” O’Rourke wrote of her husband and children. “I fought every day to stay alive and to be with them. No person could ever ask for a more loving and supportive husband, always my champion, always.”

O’Rourke’s moving story is one of many reasons thousands turn out each year to help raise money to support research and care at the UMass Medicine Cancer Center for Excellence. At the 17th Annual UMass Medicine Cancer Walk and 5K Run Kick-Off Breakfast on Thursday, June 11, O’Rourke’s best friend, Maureen Grenier, fought back tears as spoke about her friend’s long and courageous battle with a disease she had devoted her career to.

“If you didn’t know her personally, you may have seen the impact that her self-authored obituary has made in the news or on social media across the world.  She was an absolutely amazing person and friend. She continues to inspire so many people with her message,” Greiner said.

An emotional Greiner went on to read her best-friend’s obituary, and encouraged people to help carry on her legacy.

“She was active in the community and fought for causes she believed in. Beth inspired me every single day. This is why I’m involved and why I encourage all of you to be involved,” Greiner said.

More than 12,000 community members are expected to turn out for the 17th Annual UMass Medicine Cancer Walk and 5K Run, on Sunday, Sept. 27., to show their support, and raise critical funds to fight cancer. This year’s event will kick off on the UMass Medical School Campus Green with a 5K run at 8 a.m. The Cancer Walk will begin at 10 a.m.

For more information about the walk, call 508-856-2589, email, or visit the UMass Medicine Cancer Walk website.

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