FFs donate vacation to fellow La. FF, an expectant father, with bone cancer
Alex Bourque, 25, initially thought he had torn a ligament in his leg, and was shocked when doctors told him they had found a tumor growing on one of his bones
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
Alex Bourque didn't think much when he began experiencing pain behind his right knee in December.
The 25-year-old firefighter and father just thought he'd strained a muscle until the swelling started in April. Bourque saw an orthopedic doctor, who found through imaging tests that a tumor was growing on a bone in his leg. Soon after, he would learn that the tumor was cancerous.
"I was just expecting something simple like a torn ligament or something going on with the knee joint or something," Bourque said in a phone interview. "You never expect to hear you have cancer. I don't think anyone expects to hear that, especially when you're young. I was very shocked. My wife was very shocked. Everybody was."
Bourque faced another setback at the end of May, just three days before he was scheduled to visit the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. As he walked outside to mow the grass, he felt his right leg give out and heard a loud crack.
"I immediately knew what had happened," Bourque said. "I was actually still working at the time, and that's what put me out of work. I was planning to work as long as I could."
The pressure of the tumor had caused his femur, the large bone in the thigh, to break. Bourque had his bone reset and a cast placed on his leg up to his thigh. He had to resort to a walker or wheelchair to get around, which kicked off his time away from work sooner than expected. Bourque said he'll be out of work for several months more as he undergoes cancer treatments in Houston.
"I would work over 100 hours a week, without a doubt, before this," Bourque said. "So not working at all is a big change. I'm just basically sitting around. I'm in a big old cast up to my hip."
Bourque has worked full-time for the Lafayette Fire Department for six years and part-time for the Broussard Fire Department for five years.
He and his wife, Janae, have a 3-year-old son, Elliot, and are expecting a second child in August. The cancer diagnosis has upended their day-to-day lives.
"She was just at a loss for words. Very emotional and heartbroken," Bourque said of his wife. "It took probably a good week and a half before the shock was gone, before we accepted it."
Bourque has undergone the first of three rounds of chemotherapy for osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that begins in the cells that form bones. Bourque said the cancer is aggressive but his prognosis for recovery is good.
As he undergoes treatment in Houston, his coworkers are trying to ease the burden for Bourque and his family. They've donated their own vacation time to him and are planning fundraisers to benefit his family.
Their generosity is a testament to Bourque's commitment to his community, according to Broussard Fire Chief Bryan Champagne.
"He's done an exceptional job with being in the honor guard and just being involved in whatever needs to be done, whether it's working on a small engine, paperwork or fighting fire," Champagne said in a phone interview. "He's all in. He's been an important part of our team."
When Bourque broke his leg, the fire chief sprang into action and planned a blood drive to help offset medical expenses for his firefighter. Champagne is also working with Bourque's brother to plan other fundraisers and update the community on Bourque's journey through a Facebook group.
Champagne said he has been checking in each day with Bourque, who has expressed his gratitude to his fellow firefighters and the community at large for their generosity.
"I'm very grateful for all the efforts that people have undergone to try to support me and support my family and help me out with anything I need right now," Bourque said. "I'm definitely very appreciative of Bryan and my brother. They've come together to help us right now."
A blood drive will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday at Broussard City Hall, 310 Main St., to benefit Bourque. Learn more about his journey via the Team Bourque group at facebook.com/groups/229555861961045.
(c)2021 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.