Feature Story: Paula Kirk’s Story of Survival and Support


Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC) will hold its annual Against the Tide fundraisers, multi-sport events benefitting the only non-profit in the state dedicated to the prevention of breast cancer from environmental causes. The first Against the Tide takes place June 18th at DCR’s Hopkinton State Park in Hopkinton, MA for the 30th year and the second will be held on August 13th at DCR’s Nickerson State Park in Brewster, MA for the 23rd year. Each event will feature 1-mile recreational or competitive swims, ½-mile recreational swim, 5K or 10K runs, 3-mile walk, and a 1-mile USMS sanctioned swim. 

MBCC is excited to have award-winning journalist Nicole Estaphan, a reporter and producer for WCVB Channel 5’s Chronicle, to emcee the Hopkinton event on June 18th. Award-winning journalist Nathalie Pozo, a co-anchor of WCVB NewsCenter 5, will emcee the Brewster event on August 13th.

Against the Tide will feature special guest Paula Kirk, resident of Westborough and cancer survivor, who has a close connection with MBCC’s unique goal of cancer prevention. Three generations of women in Kirk’s family have had breast cancer diagnoses, without a clear genetic link. Her mother was diagnosed in her 60s and died a few years later from another form of cancer that, at the time, was believed to be a recurrence of breast cancer that spread to other areas.  In 2007, her 23-year-old niece, Julia, was stricken with invasive Stage III breast cancer—which she survived after a lengthy, grueling treatment. Two years later, at the age of 46, Kirk was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, but fortunately, like her young niece, is healthy now.

“This disease changed everything for me and my family. But it also inspired me to act,” says Kirk. In the spring of 2010, Kirk saw an article about Against the Tide in her local newspaper. The article explained MBCC’s mission to prevent breast cancer by understanding its environmental causes. The mission struck a chord with her, due to her family’s history of non-genetically induced breast cancer. “MBCC has given me hope that prevention is possible.” In 2010, Kirk ran her first 5-kilometer race at Against the Tide in Hopkinton, MA, and has proudly run it every year since. Additionally, she has been a valuable financial supporter of MBCC. “I know that every dollar of my gift helps this dedicated organization create and share free educational programs to thousands of adults and youth; advocate for crucial scientific research of the environmental causes of breast cancer; and engage communities in the fight for environmental policy changes in our state.”

Cheryl Osimo, MBCC’s Executive Director, says “We are very grateful to Paula for her many years of support and are excited that she will be participating in the Against the Tide event once again. She understands the challenges that come with breast cancer and the importance of raising awareness of cancer-causing agents in the environment. It is our hope that others will be inspired by her story, resilience, and activism, and join her and MBCC to raise funds for breast cancer prevention this summer.”

Against the Tide is an inspirational family-friendly event that brings people from all demographics together with one goal in mind: breast cancer prevention. MBCC is also hosting two virtual events, each with an 8-day participation window: Against the Tide June Virtual Event, June 11th – 18th, and Against the Tide August Virtual Event, August 6th – 13th. The virtual event components include 1-mile recreational or competitive swims, ½-mile recreational swim, 5K or 10K runs, and a 3-mile walk.

MBCC is inviting people throughout Massachusetts to register at www.mbcc.org/swim or by calling 1-800-649-MBCC (6222). Those who cannot attend are encouraged to make a pledge to a registered participant or team, via their page such as the one for Paula Kirk (https://raceroster.com/events/2022/55662/2022-against-the-tide-hopkinton/pledge/participant/14415116). Registration is $40 for an individual participant, and $100 for a family registration (up to 5 members). We encourage all participants to fundraise beyond the registration minimum, as all proceeds support Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. All participants will receive an event t-shirt and participant medal. Prizes will be awarded for the top swim and run finishers at the in-person event.