Grace Orzechowski Scholarship Fund
Grace Orzechowski of Concord was so moved by the radiotherapists who treated her at the Concord Hospital Payson Center for Cancer Care that she changed careers and studied to become a radiotherapist herself.
Tragically, she died of a very aggressive brain cancer in December 2020 at the age of 24 before completing her studies at the New Hampshire Technical Institute. But her passion for the craft and helping others continues in a scholarship that her family has established at school.
“As a result of her radiation treatment, she came into contact with Payson’s radiotherapists
Center and quickly became friends with them and they inspired her to consider enrolling to become a radiation oncologist,” said Grace’s father, Ray Orzechowski.
Grace suffered from glioblastoma, a fast-growing cancer with a very low survival rate, even for patients receiving intensive care as Grace did at the Payson Center.
In 2019, after her diagnosis, Grace harnessed the power of social media to share the news of
her illness with friends and fellow alumni at the University of Connecticut and ask that they contribute to an annual UConn fundraiser for children’s medical care. She was the top fundraiser, with over $36,000.
Her family realized that a grant in Grace’s name would also be a way for people to channel their desire to help in a meaningful and sustainable way. As they expected, the response was huge. The scholarship fund had grown to over $80,000 by the spring.
One of Grace’s classmates, Zoran Boskovic, was the first recipient.
Before being diagnosed with cancer, Grace studied to become a physical therapist. During treatment that included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy at the Payson Center, she found a new path.
“Grace has always wanted to help people,” says her mother, Anne LaForce. “We knew that was her calling. So radiation therapy was just a great match for her and she was so excited to be on the program.
Grace’s determination and perseverance were an inspiration even as her illness affected her eyesight and mobility. She fought through the challenges and took classes, aided by a walker, until several months before she died.
“She kept getting hit after blow and then said, ‘I’m done being sad for myself. I’m
going to run. Where do I have to go?” said Grace’s older sister, Hannah.
Grace’s pivot in radiation therapy was how she continued to turn the most negative news into something positive.
“She said something like, ‘I feel like this happened for a reason and that radiation therapy is where I needed to be all the time,'” Hannah said.
Grace’s family was touched by the outstanding care and compassion they saw from her Payson Center care team and know Grace would have followed suit.
“Her compassion would have enabled her to be a phenomenal radiation oncologist,” Ray Orzechowski said. “We hope recipients of this grant will read her story, know what she stood for and how hard she fought to continue pursuing her goals, and hopefully be inspired to bring that same empathy and compassion to all cancer patients who help treat them.”
To support the Grace K. Orzechowski Memorial Scholarship, visit Givenhcc.org/where-to-give/nhti
To support the Payson Center for Cancer Care, visit giveto.concordhospital.org/give-now