Growing up, Alexis Rochefort was the only one in her family desperate to get a dog. She pleaded until finally, when Rochefort was 12, her father brought home a golden retriever named Peaches, setting in motion a love that would last a lifetime.
Today, Rochefort is a certified dog trainer and her rescues, Rudy and Leo, are her constant companions. “My heart belongs to rescue dogs,” says the Danvers resident. “Many people see only their flaws; I see their potential.”
In August 2016, Rochefort’s training career was put on hold after she learned that a lump she found on her upper chest was Stage 2 breast cancer. “I was 40 years old with no history of cancer in my family,” Rochefort says. “This wasn’t supposed to happen to me.”
She began her treatment with chemotherapy, which combats cancer, but can also weaken a patient’s immune system. As a result, Rochefort developed a serious intestinal infection called Clostridium Difficile or C. Diff. The highly contagious bacteria is particularly dangerous for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Rochefort was rushed to NSMC Salem Hospital, immediately placed in isolation and provided with nutrients through a feeding tube. Meanwhile, her cancer treatment was put on hold. Because C. Diff can be resistant to antibiotics, physicians at NSMC used a variety of medications to treat her infection, and Rochefort eventually began to recover.
She spent 16 difficult days in NSMC Salem Hospital in very serious condition, but always in good hands. “Over the course of my illness, I lost 40 pounds and was as close to death as I’ve ever been, but my care was extraordinary,” she says.
“The nurses were always encouraging me, always lifting my spirits. I was scared, and if it weren’t for them, I would have lost my will.” Nurses led her through a progression of small but important victories—sitting up, taking a few steps, getting into the shower. Physicians like hospitalist Elvis Patel, M.D., also made it clear to Rochefort that the NSMC staff took a holistic approach to caring for her. “Dr. Patel took the time to sit and talk with me, not just about my condition, but about my life outside the hospital,” Rochefort says. “That personal connection meant the world to me.”
Shortly after Rochefort recovered from C. Diff, she returned to intensive cancer treatment, including radiation therapy at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers. Now, a year and a half later, she is cancer free, back to work and grateful to be alive with Rudy and Leo. “All I see for myself,” she says, “is potential.”