By Priscilla Liguori 3-24-15

The terms “college student,” “twenty year old,” and “cancer patient” all describe Paul Kirk. However, if Paul had a book, none of these words would be in the title.

The word “courageous” more accurately defines his story.

Paul won the Cam Neely Award for Courage at Tufts Medical Center’s Working Wonders gala March 24.

The Cam Neely Award for Courage is given by the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care. The foundation was originated by Boston Bruins President Cam Neely in memory of his two parents who lost their battles with cancer.

Credit: Priscilla Liguori

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

“He is loved and respected by those around him who find his positivity infectious,” Neely said in presenting Paul with the award.

Paul was honored for his positivity and determination after being diagnosed with two forms of cancer. Weeks before his high school graduation, in spring 2012, Paul was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). This past summer, Paul found out he had lymphoma.

During treatment, Paul graduated high school and took online classes. He began studying biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in fall 2013.

Paul refused to let his treatment affect his education. “Its about making good use of that kind of downtime, being productive when you don’t seem like you can,” Paul explains.

The staff at Floating Hospital for Children who worked with Paul attest to his character.

“He is Paul, not Paul with cancer,” said Jane Dudley, Certified Child Life Specialist. “Paul has never let his illness define him. He has a determination and drive that is truly inspiring and leaves our staff in awe of his bravery.”

Paul’s mother Mary Kirk appreciates the loving care he receives at Floating Hospital, but is eager for him and their family to return to normalcy.

“As much as hospitals are life, we also want to just be normal and not have hospitals and just be healthy,” says Mary.

Paul says he may pursue a career in medicine so he could use his experiences to help others. “Its definitely on my radar. Its inspiring going here and meeting all of these doctors and people that I think are awesome. I have so much respect for these people.”

No matter what he chooses to do, event attendees are celebrating Paul’s story so far.

President of Tufts Medical Center Michael Wagner, M.D. said, “Its just a wonderful story about compassion, empathy, and respect.”

Credit: Priscilla Liguori

Priscilla Liguori/ WEBN-TV

Oncologist, Third Rock Ventures Co-Founder, and Working Wonders honoree Robert Tepper talked about what he hopes he can give patients like Paul.

“Number one is hope for them all because they deserve it and very close behind is cure for as many cancers as they can,” Tepper explains. “We are learning some really important new things and I think we will get there.”

Working Wonders is Tufts Medical Center and the Floating Hospital for Children’s signature fundraising event held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The 800 Working Wonders attendees donated and participated in an auction with auctioneer David Brown, former WCVB meteorologist.

Tepper and his co-founders of Third Rock Ventures, Mark Levin and Kevin Starr, were honored with the Ellen M. Zane Award for Visionary Leadership. Third Rock Ventures has raised over $1.3 billion in investments for healthcare companies.

“Whether personally fighting cancer as Paul Kirk is so courageously doing or diligently working to help companies to develop cancer fighting drugs, as the co-founders of Third Rock Ventures are doing, our honorees have made a distinct impression on the hospital and on our community,” Wagner says. “Their strength, determination and tenacity in the face of this disease are truly inspiring.”

Today, Paul is commuting two hours from Amherst to Boston for treatment. He says he is really enjoying life as a college student.

Working Wonders was just one way the community could thank Paul for the strength in the humble smile he shares each day.

Tufts Medical Center is non-profit. To learn more about giving and supporting Tufts, visit: https://www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org/Giving-Support.aspx.

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