Blog Post

Passing of Kate Murphy

KATE MURPHY: A Life Lived Well

Posted by Mary Miller on October 3rd, 2012

Kate Murphy photo … Cancer has enriched my life. I look forward to each day with its special joys and new possibilities. I have learned to live completely and fully. And I hate to leave this life behind now that I’ve found it. – Kate Murphy, 1997.

(The full message and a poem written by Kate follow at the end of this post.)

The light dimmed a little today in the world of cancer research and patient advocacy. With deep grief but also gratitude for her life’s work, we report the passing of Kate Murphy, age 70, today (Oct. 3). While living 29 years with multiple Lynch-associated cancers and multiple sclerosis, she became one of the most respected patient advocates in the nation.

Kate was rare: She could knowledgably discuss cell-level biochemical pathways with world-renowned scientists; spin out concise, accurate reports all day long at a national oncology conference; and then, late at night in her hotel room, log onto an online cancer group and reassure a frightened, newly diagnosed patient with a blazingly clear summary of what steps should come next.

Diagnosed with her first (colon) cancer in 1983, Kate got her first modem in 1995 and within a month of its founding, joined the ACOR (Association of Cancer Online Resource) colorectal cancer group. In recent years she became the “list mom,” monitoring and frequently dipping into the online chats with carefully scientific yet compassionate explanations of everything from new drugs to complementary medicine to day-to-day symptom survival tips.

Kate was in the first group of Colon List members who joined forces to found the Colon Cancer Alliance in 1999, and in 2005 she was on the founding team of Fight Colorectal Cancer, where she worked as Director of Research Communications right up until her death. She often said, “Knowledge can break the desperate cycle of helplessness and hopelessness” for patients and families.

She didn’t just bring knowledge to patients; she took the patients’ perspective back to the professional and scientific community. She served on many scientific committees which reviewed grant proposals, monitored patient safety and developed clinical trial concepts (a partial list of her affiliations follows this article). Her work with these committees was deeply respected by both patients and experts.

“Kate speaks when she has something to say, and people always want to hear what she has to say,” said Dr. Joel Tepper, former co-chair of the National Cancer Institute’s GI Steering committee, on which Kate served and which sets national research priorities for colorectal cancer and approves all Phase III and large Phase II trials for federal funding.

“I was always happy to see her in the room, as it meant that important patient issues would not be missed, and Kate could be trusted to get to the heart of important matters.”

Not only her voice and presence, but also her writing made an enormous contribution. As FCRC’s Director of Research Communications, Kate wrote for patients, both online and in print. She began the FCRC Research News blog in 2005 and wrote literally hundreds of news reports. Her mission: get the latest, most accurate news about CRC to patients and practitioners alike. But rather than simply use media reports, she spent hours reading the original, peer-reviewed journal articles. With her decades of experience, she could instantly tell whether a research report was practice-changing, an incremental step forward, or scientifically weak—and then translate it into accurate lay language, knowing exactly what patients, families, community practitioners needed to know.

Kate had a whole other side to her life. “Many in the cancer community don’t know that Kate was also a published poet, or that she and her husband Tom took in rescue dogs. Kate was also a swimmer and in the summer, swimming in her lake brought her much joy. And her granddaughter Sophia was a gift who made her smile constantly,” says Nancy Roach, founder of Fight Colorectal Cancer. “I will miss her smile and the twinkle in her eyes.”

“One of my favorite things about Kate was how much she loved to take train trips with her husband,” said Carlea Bauman, President of Fight Colorectal Cancer. “And I mean LONG train trips. She once took the train from her home in upstate New York to the GI Cancers Symposium in San Francisco.

“Kate realized that the joy was in the journey – and she was in no mood to rush to the finish line.”

Her scientific mind and her giant heart are stilled and cannot be replaced. But her voice carries on through every person she supported, inspired, and touched.

If you wish to honor Kate Murphy’s contributions to science, one of her favorite causes was Fight CRC’s Lisa Fund, which directs 100% of donations to young researchers working to find cures for advanced colorectal cancer.

To learn more click here.


We Highlight Successes, Leaders, Best Practices, And Tools That Are Making An Impact In The Nationwide Movement To Reach 80% Screened For Colorectal Cancer.

Do you have a suggestion for a future blog topic? We welcome you to share your suggestions by emailing [email protected].

Blog Policy
Opinions expressed in these blog posts are that of the author and do not represent policies of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable or the author’s institution.

Our staff moderate all comments on the 80% Blog. While we do not censor based on point of view, we will delete or edit comments that are offensive or off topic. Click here to view full version.