She referred to as herself a “fighter,” tattooing the scripted phrase, in black ink, onto her interior forearm whereas combating for her life.
Her household used the verb “pivot” many times to explain her adaptability, explaining that Grace Orzechowski absorbed the emotional and bodily ache attributable to her terminal mind most cancers like a champ, by no means shedding hope it doesn’t matter what all these docs instructed her.
Her lacrosse coach at Harmony Excessive stated Orzechowski was staff captain as a result of that’s the best way her teammates wished it. Tom Arnold, the previous proprietor of Arnie’s Place, referred to as her the “Captain” when she labored for him as a result of the label merely match.
And her boyfriend Tyler Olander, who’s 6-foot-10 and performed school basketball with Boston Celtics star Kemba Walker on the College of Connecticut, stated he was comfortable to observe the path of compassion and competitiveness and charisma cast by Grace.
Proper up by the day she died, on Dec. 20.
“I’ve been round a variety of staff leaders,” stated Olander, who gained a nationwide championship at UConn in 2014, “and all I can say to you is that she is above all of them.”
Olander joined a convention name with Grace’s household – her dad and mom, Ray Orzechowski and Anne LaForce, her sister, 26-year-old Hannah, and her brother, Sam, 20.
They wished to recollect Grace, even with the wound so contemporary.
“We love to speak about her. It’s simple,” LaForce stated. “It’s joyful, and we had been questioning how we’d really feel as soon as this occurred.”
Even after the tragedy of a 24-year-old dying after a two-year wrestle with mind most cancers, unlocking outdated reminiscences stored spirits up.
As soon as, Sam was within the unenviable place of being the little brother, a grade college child focused by his evil sisters, the excessive schoolers with sturdy personalities and a stronger bond who had been born simply 17 months aside.
“The 12 months (Hannah) moved to Boston for college, Grace and I had been house and my dad and mom thought we going to kill one another,” stated Sam, who’s learning industrial engineering at Northeastern College. “There have been a few damaged issues round the home.”
Quickly, although, Sam acquired the message, becoming a member of Grace’s orbit later in his teenagers and benefiting from her integrity and ideas and conduct.
“I began molding my character after her,” Sam stated. “She was the perfect position mannequin I ever may have requested for.”
The bond between the sisters suffered no such early fraying. Grace and Hannah had been one grade aside. They performed jokes on buddies, pretending they had been twins.
And in a way, they had been.
Coming from UConn, driving house to Harmony for the weekend, Grace all the time stopped in Boston to select up Hannah at Northeastern.
“I all the time wished her to be a part of my buddies’ teams,” stated Hannah, who works for a software program firm that makes a speciality of analysis and growth. “She’d say to me, ‘I like that you’re me, solely higher.’ It was simply so particular. I beloved sharing her with my folks.”
Grace’s educational and sports activities accomplishments stuffed an in depth timeline, despatched to me by her father Ray, a Harmony dentist. Grace performed lacrosse and discipline hockey at Harmony Excessive, captained each groups and gained a state championship in lacrosse in 2012.
Add the intangibles, like mixing with and cheering for the varsity’s junior varsity lacrosse staff, and the aura of an rising chief adopted Grace all over the place.
“An amazing position mannequin,” stated Steph Johnson of Derry, Grace’s highschool lacrosse coach. “Her friends revered her. She performed midfield, so her stats weren’t nice, however she was all the time keen to assist her teammates out and cross off so they might rating as a substitute.
“The women voted for the participant they thought needs to be captain,” Johnson continued. “They wished somebody they might work with and look to as a optimistic position mannequin.”
She met Olander at Uconn. As her father famous on his timeline, his daughter met “the love of her life.”
“He’s way over a boyfriend,” he stated. “He’s a giant presence within the household. Grace acquired to know romantic love. As a household, you can provide her love, however that allowed them to expertise that different a part of life. He was a part of this decision-making course of and he was there for all (conferences).”
They met on-line three years in the past. It didn’t take lengthy for Olander to really feel Grace’s sturdy, optimistic vibe. She was a senior the 12 months Olander graduated.
“Nice enjoyable,” Olander stated. “An amazing relationship in all elements. You can’t put Grace into phrases. She had her personal manner of doing issues, and he or she was unapologetically herself and a sort particular person you wished to observe.”
After UConn, she pursued her a complicated diploma in bodily remedy at Franklin Pierce College. Extreme complications within the fall of 2108 led to testing and scans and thriller. And a collection of pivots as nicely, one piece of unhealthy information at a time.
She needed to depart Franklin Pierce. She was identified with a extremely malignant mind tumor in Feb. of 2019. She endured intensive therapies of chemotherapy and radiation. She misplaced her hair, wore a wig, misplaced sight in a single eye, wore a patch.
She nonetheless discovered time to return to UConn, the place she danced for 18 hours within the annual HuskyThon, elevating cash for a kids’s medical heart. She had lately revealed her sickness. She hoped for $5,000 and raised $36,000, a HuskyThon document.
She improved, the tumors light. Then the tumors returned. That cycle occurred once more, a heartbreaking flip that had devastating results on everybody.
And the way did Grace reply to all these setbacks? She pivoted, after all. Higher than anybody else did.
Nonetheless combating most cancers, amazed on the care she had obtained from radiation therapists on the Dana Farber most cancers Institute, Grace, shockingly, went again to highschool, to New Hampshire Technical Institute, to check in its radiation remedy program.
Similar to that. Battle most cancers. Again to highschool. Change profession paths.
“When most folk get handled for this, they don’t have good reminiscences about it,” stated Amy VonKadich, the division chair of diagnostic medical imaging at NHTI.
“You do it to get higher, however present process one thing like that to get higher, after which it turns into one thing you need to do as a profession, she’s the primary particular person I’ve ever seen try this,” VonKadich stated.
Even close to the top, Grace wouldn’t yield.
Three months earlier than she died, there she was, within the passenger’s seat in her mom’s automotive, utilizing a walker to get round campus.
“She’d get to class early,” LaForce stated. “I’d stroll her in. She wished to get again only for the power. She fearful she was doing an excessive amount of, however she was decided to not let issues change due to the most cancers.”
Medical options and coverings solely gave false hope. Glioblastoma is essentially the most aggressive most cancers that originates within the mind, an elusive enemy recognized for retreating initially, then bypassing medical obstacles in its relentless assault on the physique.
And with hope fading – basically gone, really – guess what Grace selected to do: change to the Keto Food plan, after all. Get rid of sugar to starve the most cancers. Eat pink meat and bacon for protein-enriched energy. Hold punching.
So everybody pivoted.
“It was one other manner we may really feel empowered when treating her most cancers,” her father stated. “We ate pink meat. Each time she ate bacon she’d act prefer it was the primary time she’d ever had it. Each morning, she’d say, ‘Bacon, please.’ ”
These phrases had been placed on a bracelet to indicate help. One other donation-raising bracelet learn “pivot.” She acquired her “Fighter” tattoo whereas in hospice care.
And he or she died at house, her alternative, consuming bacon to the top, going to highschool to the top, inspiring to the top. Fading away in hospice was not an choice.
“She wished to verify she’s generally known as the lady who went off hospice,” LaForce stated. “She determined it was simply time.”
Grace died at house on Dec. 20. However not earlier than squeezing and kissing arms. She’d whisper, “Love you extra,” every time somebody stated they beloved her.
Her title lives perpetually at NHTI, which created the Grace Ok. Orzechowski Memorial Scholarship.
A pair of $1,000 scholarships shall be awarded, together with one to Grace’s former classmate in NHTI’s radiation program. Donations exceed $41,000.
“She acquired unhealthy information and he or she would course of it and cry and say, ‘I’m carried out being unhappy, let’s transfer on,’ ” Ray Orzechowski stated. “We simply offered the love anybody in that place wanted.”
Although gone bodily, she’s nonetheless right here, her mom stated.
“Her presence is all over the place proper now The wind and the fog are lifting. Her younger power is so sturdy that I really feel her.”