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Beautiful, Brave, and Lost

Erica was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in 2007, when she was just 26 years old. But Michael — who had fallen for her unique charm, beauty, and humor — proposed months later without reservation.  An engagement ring crystallized his commitment to not just love Erica, but to care for her health through the inevitable peaks and valleys of her diagnosis. They were married in 2008. 

As newlyweds, they stayed optimistic about cancer and relished every day together, freely sharing their time and kindness with countless friends and family members. As Erica’s health declined, Michael bravely stepped into the demanding role of primary caregiver. In the last months of her life, Michael quit his job to stay home with Erica. He doted on her. He kept up with bills. He prepared food. He invited friends. He did his best. 

On March 6, 2011, Erica died. Throughout their path with colorectal cancer, Erica received immense support from loved ones. Michael did, too, but the stress of caregiving and losing the love of his life as a young man leveled an immeasurable toll on his heart and mind. Michael turned to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance  — then Chris4Life  — for meaningful work. But even the mission to end this disease, which he embraced in memory of Erica, couldn’t plug the hole in his heart.

Erica’s death left Michael unmoored. He became depressed, and unhealthy coping mechanisms led to an unhealthy body. Michael died from a heart attack in 2016 when he was only 37. 

Ginny Paul, Michael’s mother, says he died of a broken heart, adding that the needs and worries of caregivers are often second to those of the patient. Too often, devastation follows. Ginny established The Michael & Erica Paul Memorial Fund to support caregivers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia communities and ensure their needs and concerns are comprehensively addressed. 

"Michael was never diagnosed with cancer, but it killed him anyway. I know he is with Erica now, and that gives me peace. This Fund is designed to give peace to others, too, by assisting our brave cancer caregivers before it’s too late." 

– Ginny Paul, Founder of the Michael & Erica Paul Memorial Fund

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