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Compassionate Cancer Care | Bruce's Battle

Ken Harvey

Six years ago, Bruce Parisien received a life-changing diagnosis. The Belcourt, North Dakota man was told he was in the end-stages of small-cell carcinoma cancer.

'It was the worst time of our life,' Raylene Parisien, Bruce's wife said.

The family scheduled an appointment with Altru for comfort care, as they believed Bruce did not have much time left.

Instead of comfort care, the oncology team at Altru was able to give Bruce much needed relief from pain and set up a treatment plan. They weren't ready to give up.

'When we walked in, the doctor was the first provider, through this whole experience, who sat there and put his hand on Bruce's knee and said, 'tell me how you feel.''

That moment was the start of a big change in Bruce's care.

For months, he struggled with pain in his throat. Drinking water or taking pain medication was sometimes too painful.

'The compassion he showed us was exactly what our family needed at that point in time,' Raylene said. 'Nobody had ever asked, 'tell me how you feel?' Nobody had asked us that before.'

Choosing to Fight

After that initial appointment, Bruce chose to keep fighting with Altru's cancer team.

The patient navigator helped them from the minute they stepped foot on Altru's campus.

'They got the whole ball rolling,' Raylene said. 'She's the one that we called when we had an appointment. She's the one that did the booking for our lodging. She helped us apply for disability.'

For months, the family traveled from Belcourt to Grand Forks for treatment several times a week.

'I remember missing out on holidays,' Raylene said. 'I remember having to learn how to take care of a feeding tube, which I never thought I'd have to learn how to do.'

Bruce went through 56 rounds of radiation with Dr. Grant Seeger. He received chemo treatments under Dr. Todor Dentchev. The family describes him as watchful, compassionate and understanding.

'I remember the compassionate staff in the chemo lab,' Raylene said. 'I don't know what kind of training they have there but they're exactly what people in that situation need.'

A Seasoned Warrior

Small-cell carcinoma wasn't Bruce's first battle with cancer. He previously beat colon cancer.

Today, Bruce is fighting a rare form of esophageal cancer at the Mayo Clinic. Altru is partnering with the Mayo Clinic to give patients the best  care. While his battle isn't over, his diagnosis isn't keeping him from doing what he loves.

'He does team roping as a hobby,' Raylene said. 'He golfs about four times a week. He does all the maintenance around the house. There's nothing he can't do. His quality of life is excellent.'

Though it's been six years since they first came to Altru, the Parisien family still remembers how the Oncology team made them feel.

'I have recommended people to Altru for their care,' said Raylene. 'Many people from our area have come there, because of our story, because of how we were treated there.'

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