Michael & Erica Paul Memorial Fund
Supporting Colorectal Cancer Caregivers in the D.C. Area
Michael and Erica Paul were college sweethearts who married a few years after graduation from Northwood University. Friends and family adored the couple, and their obvious love foretold a wonderful life together. But colorectal cancer, the second deadliest cancer in the United States, ended their story too soon. The disease took Erica in 2011 and the effects of her loss took Michael in 2016.
The Michael & Erica Paul Memorial Fund seeks to strengthen support for caregivers, with an emphasis on those in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Primary caregivers are the backbone of colorectal cancer treatment. They are a patient’s closest ally, bravest guardian, and most selfless giver. Your donation to the Fund gives back to those who have given the most — and sometimes their all — to colorectal cancer patients.
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 32.
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.
A Fund for the Givers Among Us
Your gift to the Michael & Erica Paul Memorial Fund will establish and support funding for programs at the Colorectal Cancer Alliance aimed at reducing the mental, social, financial, and physical burdens of cancer caregiving. Specifically, the fund will allow the Alliance to build, grow, and plan:
- An online community forum just for caregivers that allows those in the D.C. metro area and nationwide to connect on the needs, burdens, and grief specific to colorectal cancer caregivers
- A caregiver Buddy Program focus that connects caregivers in the D.C. metro area to those who have walked the same walk as a colorectal cancer caregiver
- A caregiver-focused health education program, including in-person sessions focused on caregiver self-care, webinars intended to support caregivers, and enhanced content in the Alliance’s BlueHQ patient support hub.
- Routine, in-person support groups to connect with and navigate caregivers in the D.C. metro area.
Your donation is a recognition of and gesture of support for the most selfless givers among us — the primary caregivers of colorectal cancer patients.
"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