Patient Success Story: BMT Patient Turns Senior Research Specialist
Everything happened so quickly—the trip to the emergency room, the diagnosis of immunoblastic large cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, surgery to partially remove the very large tumor in his chest cavity, multiple courses of chemotherapy. When doctors at Roswell Park recommended a blood or marrow transplant (BMT) as the next step, “I really didn’t have time to think about it,” says Andrew Bouquard. He was just 19 years old at the time, unaware that the transplant would change his life in more ways than he could imagine.
As part of his medical plan, Andrew chose to enroll in a clinical research study (clinical trial) of a new and promising pre-transplant treatment that was being evaluated in patients for the first time. First he received a combination of high-dose chemotherapy and full-body radiation therapy, followed by infusions of both marrow and stem cells.
Although the transplant process was difficult, support from the BMT team “got me through,” recalls Andrew. “They become part of your family.” Today, 18 years later, he remains healthy and is monitored every year in Roswell Park’s BMT Long-Term Follow-Up Clinic.
His transplant transformed him in other ways, too. At the time of his diagnosis, he was unsure what he wanted to do with his life. But during and after treatment, his BMT doctors at Roswell Park “encouraged me to go back to school,” he says. Inspired by “how I was touched here,” he enrolled at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Today Andrew serves as Senior Research Subject Protection Specialist at Roswell Park, helping ensure the safety of patients who are enrolled in clinical studies. He encourages patients who are eligible for a clinical study to “give it serious consideration. The reason I’m here today is because somebody before me went through a clinical trial. And I believe that everything I went through has made things a lot better for other patients over the past 18 years.” He’s helping to “make things better” in other ways, too, especially in his work with various committees that focus on helping patients and families cope with and understand their cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Andrew says his life has “changed 100% from when I was diagnosed with cancer.” Now married, with a six-year-old son, he’s outspoken in his belief that “survivorship starts at diagnosis. Too many people focus on survivorship as post-treatment, but you’re surviving before, during, and after treatment. It’s all survivorship.” Thinking of yourself as a survivor from the very beginning, he adds, can “give you hope and inspiration.”