Hitting a High Note to Help Cancer Survivors

Rick Boulay, a gynecologic oncologist and classically trained singer, will host a performance to raise money for cancer charities.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED February 22, 2018
Music is a language that can speak to all people. For Rick Boulay, M.D., who serves as the Director of gynecologic oncology at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and is a classically trained singer, music changed following his wife’s leukemia diagnosis nine years ago.

Boulay thought he knew the disease that he had spent years studying and treating. However, he realized he still had much to learn from an unexpected source — his patients.

“I began to realize that they knew far more than I about managing cancer,” Boulay said. “I had the degree, but they had the wisdom. I had the books, but they had the practicality. I wanted what they had. And within a few years, I was transformed.”

That transformation taught him that music is much more than entertainment. He now views it as a narrative. “The combination of thoughtful lyric and a gorgeous melody speaks in ways that nothing else can,” he said.

Boulay only discovered this after cancer hit close to home. He now uses his talent to help support patients and survivors. On April 14, Boulay will perform an original interactive presentation of song and story, titled “You Will Be Found: Songs and Lessons of Cancer Survivorship,” along with Vincent Trovato, a faculty member in the Music Department at Muhlenberg College who will serve as piano accompanist and music director, as well as Boulay’s daughter, Carolyn, a sophomore at NYU who is studying classical voice and opera.

The event will be geared toward cancer survivors and those who love them, with each song underscoring a lesson. “This is a wonderfully healing and deeply moving program,” Boulay said. “We provide avenues for audience members to share the wisdom of their cancer journeys either anonymously via an audience response system, which tabulates responses in real time to prompts during the performance, or by sharing personal narratives. In this way, we can all benefit from the collective experience.”

All money raised from ticket sales will go to support local and national cancer-related charities. Tickets start at $25 and a $40 donation will include an autographed copy of one of Boulay’s previously recorded CDs.
Boulay’s desire to help people with cancer began 20 years ago when he became a board-certified gynecologic oncologist. In 2007, he founded The Catherine Boulay Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to honor his grandmother who died of cancer when he was young. It offers education on the disease, as well as resources for not only patients, but also survivors and caregivers.

In 2017, he made national headlines after he led a team of 10 that removed a 140-pound cancerous tumor from a woman. She thought she was simply gaining weight, but a CT scan revealed that an ovarian cyst had grown into a stage 1 tumor. Through careful planning, Boulay decided to roll the tumor out of her and onto an operating table. After a 26-day recovery in the hospital, the woman had her life back.

Boulay has also published several articles on cancer survivorship in medical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association and Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Many people with cancer are living longer lives – some even cured – because of newer drugs and better treatment options. “They are quietly and completely transformed,” Boulay said. “And the wisdom they share about their journeys is quite powerful.”

“You Will Be Found” will take place at 2 p.m. on April 14 at the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
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