Laurier "Chic" Boucher of Fairhaven was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last October and given two or three months to live. In this second of a two-part column, he describes his remarkable year of reaching out and surviving.
Chic Boucher began seeing Dr. Thomas Zipoli at the Oncology Center in Dartmouth last October, and the musician and the doctor hit it off. "Just get me through Christmas," Chic urged. "I never did like January and February!" (He had not lost his sense of humor.)
Because of scheduling difficulties, however, it would be six weeks before Chic could begin chemotherapy. Meanwhile, Chic's son John made an appointment for him to see Dennis Hardy, a doctor of naturopathy in North Attleboro, who utilizes herbs and other alternative treatments. "I wanted to go both tracks -- Western and Eastern medicine," Chic explains.
The doctor of naturopathy told Chic, "Don't let anybody tell you when you're going to die. I'm going to work on healing you."
Chemotherapy would keep him alive, but being alive wasn't enough.
For whatever time he had left, Chic wanted a good life. "Most pancreatic cancer patients do not have a high quality of life," he says.
The doctor prescribed a pound of grapes a day (to flush the poisons out of his system) and later a fresh, homemade carrot-spinach drink. "Chic went out and got a heavy-duty juicer," says wife Joan. "The juicing was a lot of work, but it helped him take charge of his illness. And he was getting excellent nutrition." The result? Chic began keeping food down. He started feeling better.
Next he worked on the gall bladder-liver flush, which helps with constipation (caused by painkillers).
Chic also began hydrotherapy to increase his circulation (brief hot and cold immersions in the shower).
Meanwhile, Chic's sister Jackie Kummer and brother-in-law Harry plied him with fresh fruits and vegetables from their garden. "Jackie made up her mind she was going to get Chic to eat," says Joan, smiling.
Chic didn't stop there. He began acupuncture with Cindy Drogo in Dartmouth (to strengthen the immune system) and message therapy. He started taking long walks along the Fairhaven bike trail (previously he had been too weak to exercise) and he began watching comedy tapes. "Laughter is good medicine," he declares. And he reached out to friends.
He also joined a support group at the Oncolology Center, facilitated by oncology social worker Mary Peterson and oncology nurse Brenda Sussman. "There's so much vibrancy in the group," says Chic. "The good stuff is brought out as well as the illness."
Says Dr. Zipoli, "Chic is one of my longest-living patients with pancreatic cancer. His attitude is the best. He's open, he talks about it. And he tolerates the chemo well. Chic's best asset is his wife. Joan is always calm and attentive -- she's not sitting there biting her fingernails. And, of course, his children."
Chic has been feeling so well, he and Joan spent eight days in Canada last summer and they have made several trips to New York City.
Chic arrives at the Oncology Center every week for treatment, taking chemo through a "porto cath" permanently inserted in his upper chest. "Chemo makes me tired but it doesn't make me sick. I just go home and take a nap."
He does not know how long this grace period will last, but it has been an extraordinary year -- rich with family and friends; with the healing power of Western and Eastern medicine; with bountiful, bitter-sweet life: sea-air, beaches, flowers, food, music, this day, this precious moment.
Marsha McCabe is a columnist for The Sunday Standard-Times.