Kerry O’Riordan McAdam, inspirational breast-cancer fund-raiser, business professional, and fitness enthusiast, has died at 31

Kerry O’Riordan McAdam, 31, of Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, a dynamic and inspirational fund-raiser for the fight against breast cancer, business professional, and lifelong fitness enthusiast, died Tuesday, April 26, of metastatic breast cancer at home.

Ms. McAdam was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, also known as stage IV, in February 2020. Over the next two years, as she dealt with pain, surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, emotional trauma, and other challenges of the disease, she became troubled over the lack of awareness and funding for a cure.

So, drawing on the unquenchable energy, enthusiasm, and optimism that defined her first 29 years, she joined family friend Jacquie Beck, also diagnosed with the condition, their families, and friends and created a series of events that raised more than $450,000, almost twice their original goal of $250,000, for research and public awareness efforts.

Several research grants have already been funded by the money raised, and two were named in honor of Ms. McAdam and Beck. The fund-raising group, which plans to carry on for Ms. McAdam, recently set a new goal of $1 million.

“Their hope was that a cure for MBC would be discovered before this horrible disease took their lives,” said John F. O’Riordan, Ms. McAdam’s father. Now, he said, the goal is to save the lives of those still suffering.

Working with Maryland-based Metavivor, a nonprofit that raises public awareness, funds research toward a cure, and improves the lives of patients with metastatic breast cancer, Ms. McAdam and her group held its signature event, the Philadelphia Metsquerade Gala, on Feb. 25 in the Crystal Tea Room at the Wanamaker Building in Center City.

In pain and just days after undergoing yet another major surgery, Ms. McAdam gave an impassioned 16-minute speech about the need for more research, more paths to a cure, more reasons to hope. “Without the money required to develop those new drugs, a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, like the one I received two years ago, will continue to be a death sentence,” she said.

Her words were life-changing for some in the audience, and people wept throughout the address, her father said. “The only sounds in the room of 650 were her voice and successive rounds of applause,” he said. “I have never seen such courage and was so proud of my wee little girl.”

Ms. McAdam was born Nov. 6, 1990, in Philadelphia. She grew up in Doylestown, graduated from Central Bucks East High School in 2009, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013.

She worked in Virginia as an account manager for Higher Logic, an online platform provider, and in 2018 moved to Chicago and was senior director of business development for California-based Blue Sky eLearn, an online learning management firm.

She met Ross McAdam, a London-based investment manager in Chicago on assignment, two months before her diagnosis, and they became engaged in October 2020. They married in a civil ceremony in 2021 and had scheduled an official celebration for April 15 in Philadelphia.

After her diagnosis, Ms. McAdam returned to Philadelphia for treatment at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. There were some successes, and she was able to travel a bit. But setbacks continued, and she was in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in March and spent April in hospice at home.

“She showed me a love and a life that I didn’t know could exist,” her husband said. “And for that I will be eternally grateful.”

Ms. McAdam was a dancer, cheerleader, and athlete in high school. She ran the Broad Street Run and danced with the Froggy Carr Mummers. She was a foodie, followed fashion, exercised incessantly, and spent part of her junior year of college in London.

As her health declined, she worried openly about the sadness her condition had caused others. “She gushed goodness,” her father said.

That night at the Metsquerade Gala, she urged her listeners to transform the fund-raiser into “a celebration that the cure has finally been developed.” The 2023 gala is already scheduled for Feb. 3.

“She refused to let cancer win,” said her sister, Patrice O’Riordan Stringham. “She made the most of every moment.”

Her mother, Cynthia Millevoi, said Ms. McAdam was “courageous throughout everything. Kerry, I learned so much from you.”

In addition to her husband, parents, and sister, Ms. McAdam is survived by other relatives. Her sister Meghan died earlier.

A celebration of her life, featuring a video tribute, was Sunday, May 15.

Donations in her name may be made to Metavivor Research and Support Inc., 1783 Forest Dr., No. 184, Annapolis, Md. 21401. Note “K and J Road to a Cure” on checks.