KEEPING PROMISES: Beauparlant and Peter Rice raised $34,000 for Beth Rice's memorial foundation as part of a 180-mile bike-a-thon last weekend.
Kristin Beauparlant, RN, OCN, remembers walking into Beth Bennett Rice's room to find her asleep with a computer on her lap. Upon waking, Rice would immediately begin typing. Up until her death in the fall of 2008, Rice worked tirelessly on the legacy she would leave behind: Madam Ovary, an organization dedicated to increasing early detection of ovarian cancer by educating women about its symptoms and raising funds for cancer research at the MGH.
Rice was devastated when, at 52, she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer in 2005. She had a successful career in the finance industry and was happily married to her husband of 22 years, Peter. Long before Rice's own diagnosis, both were avid cyclists who participated annually in the 192-mile Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), raising more than $200,000 for cancer research.
Rice received treatment at the MGH Cancer Center for the next three years, including extensive surgery and chemotherapy. During each hospital stay, she became increasingly close with Beauparlant, a longtime MGH oncology nurse. They would often talk about Rice's fundraising and cycling efforts, and Rice would encourage Beauparlant to ride in the PMC. But the now 36-year-old Beauparlant, a busy mother of three, did not even own a bike. She remembers joking with Rice about whether her daughter's Barbie bike would last the 192 miles.
Despite treatment and a year of remission, Rice's cancer recurred and metastasized. Just days after she decided to receive hospice care, Beauparlant was helping Rice wash her hair - what little was left -when she made a request that would forever change Beauparlant's life.
"I want you to have my bicycle, to ride with Peter and to raise as much money as you possibly can."
Beauparlant began to cry. "I kept telling her I couldn't take it, I just couldn't. But she wouldn't take no for an answer. "There's no question, you're taking it and you're doing it," she said. It was probably one of the most emotional moments of my life. To have her think so much of me that she would give me her bike -it was really significant."
That year, Beauparlant rode in the PMC, her first of three. Meanwhile, she and Rice's many family members and friends worked tirelessly to put the final touches on Madam Ovary. After the organization received designation as a 501(c) nonprofit earlier this year, Beauparlant and Peter Rice were able to kick off their own fundraising bike-a-thon, "Mountains to the Sea." Between June 15 and 17, the two rode 180 miles from Littleton, N.H., to New Castle, N.H., where Rice and her husband had lived, with loved ones cheering them on all along the way. Melissa DeLisle, RN, another MGH nurse who helped care for Rice, joined them on the last day. Together, the three raised more than $34,000 in support of Madam Ovary's mission.
"This is our first year, but we hope to get more support and more people to participate as we go," says Beauparlant. "Beth would be so proud to know that her dream of giving back and helping others is now a reality."
For more information about Madam Ovary, The Elizabeth Bennett Rice Fund for Ovarian Cancer Research, Education and Awareness, visit www.madamovary.org.
Read more articles from the 06/22/12 Hotline issue.