By Camille P. Wicher
The Roswell Park family goes through a lot together. Over the last few days we said a sudden goodbye to a dear friend and colleague. A man who beat cancer as a teenager and went on to teach the rest of us how to live well and, above all, how to lift others up.
Andrew Bouquard’s journey at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center began in 1996, when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 19. He underwent surgery, multiple courses of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, and took part in a clinical trial.
Encouraged by his doctors, Andy — whom many knew as Drew — returned to school to pursue a biology degree from the University at Buffalo. He returned to Roswell in 2003, this time as a clinical research assistant, before working his way up to senior research subject protection specialist, a lengthy name with a simple purpose: helping ensure the safety of patients enrolled in clinical studies. And it was more than a job to Andy — it was a way to pay his good fortune forward.
“The reason I’m here today is because somebody before me went through a clinical trial,” he’d say.
This job was critical to him, and he dedicated himself to it. But it was his advocacy and the lessons he taught others, both in and outside of his job, that will leave the most lasting impression on all who knew him.
As a survivor, Andy taught us about the long-term effects of cancer. He taught us how to move forward in life with grace, dignity, love and pride. He taught us how a survivor becomes an advocate, a mentor and an inspiration. How to keep giving to others. How to make time for everyone.
He would take time out of his day to visit with Courage of Carly Fund members — kids with cancer — forming friendships and serving as a true-to-life example that their cancer experience would always be a part of them, but, at least to a point, the extent was up to them.
He served as a voice for cancer survivors, speaking at community events and sharing his story. He volunteered with our Survivorship Program. And it was no surprise to anyone when he volunteered to be the youth hockey commissioner for The 11 Day Power Play in 2017.
Most recently he was featured in Roswell Park’s Super Bowl commercial titled “Dear Cancer,” which showcases the inspiration and courage of Roswell Park’s cancer community. He’s the one seated on the stool in the final group shot.
Andy was proud to be a cancer survivor, and he showed us the truth of the notion that survivorship begins at diagnosis. “You’re surviving before, during and after treatment. It’s all survivorship,” he would say.
He bore his cancer legacy with pride. But beyond cancer, he taught us how to be good people, how to live well and fully. Andy was big-hearted, generous, inspiring, dedicated. A devoted family man, he loved his wife, Christa, and son, Brendan, more than anything and was thrilled to be expecting another child. He was a wonderful person.
Andy’s sudden death last week has left us reeling — friends, colleagues, those who knew him by his smile just passing him in the hallway. But he has left us with so much — lessons that will affect our own lives and forever influence our understanding of cancer survivorship.
Camille P. Wicher, Ph.D., is a nurse and lawyer who serves as vice president of Clinical Research Service and Corporate Ethics at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.