Women’s Health Advocate: Melanie Bacheler, ’89

A Raleigh, N.C., ovarian cancer walk that raises thousands of dollars each year is the result of the hard work of Melanie Parkins Bacheler, ’89, who started the fundraiser as a way to remember her mother.

The Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk and 5K Run began in 2003, attracting 200 participants and $63,000 in donations. Since that time, the annual event has raised more than $3 million to support the Duke Cancer Institute. The 2014 event welcomed 3,200 walkers and runners, raising $335,000.Photo of Melanie Parkins Bacheler, Class of 1989

Bacheler was a pharmaceutical sales representative and part-time college instructor with a six-month-old daughter when her mother was diagnosed. Her mother’s diagnosis led Bacheler to realize “life was fragile and too short.”

She turned her attention to her family, becoming a stay-at-home mother and caregiver for her own mother, who passed away after two years filled with surgeries and chemotherapy treatments.

“It was very hard after my mother died,” Bacheler said. “I suddenly went from busy days as a caregiver, wife, and mother to having a lot of idle time.”

Inspired by previous committee work for other causes, Bacheler decided to organize an event to support ovarian cancer research.

“I [decided] to plan a walk to raise awareness for ovarian cancer and to try to raise a little money for the wonderful doctors at Duke,” she said. “I did it as a way to honor my mother and channel my grief into something positive.”

Raising awareness of the signs of ovarian cancer, which is diagnosed annually in nearly a quarter of a million women around the world, was another goal.

“Ovarian cancer doesn’t have to kill, but it often does because of its silent symptoms,” Bacheler explains.

Bacheler’s friends and family, including her husband and two daughters, have been supportive from the start.

Since that first walk, the event has become a year-round project. She handles all aspects of the walk – securing sponsors, recruiting participants, and managing all the logistics for an event that attracts thousands of people.

“Coordinating the Ovarian Cancer Walk and Run is a labor of love, and one that makes me feel close to my mother and so very proud that her memory lives on,” Bacheler said. “It’s such a special day for all who participate; it’s a healing day.”

The 13th Annual Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk and 5K Run will be held on September 12, 2015. Learn more about the event and ovarian cancer at

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330