By Tracey Buckalew
Before Thanksgiving in 2016, Madison resident Rogette Boyer began to have digestive problems. As would many of us, Rogette blamed her diet, and began to cut out some of the most common culprits of stomach upset starting with caffeine and onions. Her diligence, and an occasional Advil, would alleviate her symptoms for a week or so, then the pain would start up again, for which she’d take more Advil.
Such was Rogette’s routine throughout December, when she was forced to cancel her health insurance because of a premium increase she could not afford. By March, Rogette was living with persistent abdominal pain that wouldn’t respond to Advil, and she made a trip to the emergency room.
A CAT scan revealed a large mass covering her colon. A round of antibiotics was administered and a few days later, a colonoscopy verified the presence of a tumor on Rogette’s colon.
Surgery in April of this year removed part of the tumor, but Rogette’s surgeon was not able to remove it all; a mass remained in her small intestine. Chemotherapy was prescribed, and a visit to an oncologist was in order. Yet another CAT scan was conducted, revealing a disappointing result; another mass was found above the prior surgery area. In addition, Rogette’s lymph nodes were enlarged. Chemotherapy was begun a week later.
As of the date of this interview, Mrs. Boyer has had three treatments. “I haven’t been sick yet, thank God,” she exclaims. “And I got a good report this week. I’m just trying to keep a positive attitude. I have a lot of support and love around me.”
Part of Rogette’s support group has been assembled from a rather unexpected place – her son E.J.’s place of employment. E.J. works in the kitchen at the Bone Island Grillhouse (B.I.G). “It’s been difficult to process all of this,” E.J. says. “We’re just trying to walk with her, fight for her and with her. This has brought all of us closer, and B.I.G. has backed me up. They said, ‘Go to her. Be with her.’ What a blessing! What kind of people stand behind their employees as much as these people have? They’ve done nothing but treat me like family, and I can’t thank them enough.”
General Manager Kara Fuller explains. “In the beginning, I didn’t realize yet what stage cancer E.J.’s mom had or that she had no insurance, but I told E.J. that if there was anything they needed, to let me know. A few days later, I found out that Rogette was having a hard time getting someone to treat her because she was uninsured. I know from my experience that, even having great medical insurance, it’s very difficult to navigate around with Major Medical. I can’t imagine not having any insurance and what little this family was going to be left with.”
“E.J. is a dynamic team member,” Fuller said. “He’s definitely bought into the value system we have here – you can’t fake that. It comes from ‘good bones,’ so I know that his great attitude speaks to his family and his upbringing. Our success is based on our team, and I want to be there to support them when they need us the most. I feel like E.J. and his family need us right now. My brothers, Ryan and Jody, and I, wanted to do something for them.
That “something” began as a “Pantry Party.”
“All of our team members filled the banquet room in both locations with non-perishable items to stock the family’s pantry,” Fuller said. “Then we gave them cash for perishable refrigerator items. On Mother’s Day, E.J. showed up at her house with a truckload of pantry items, so at least they were set on groceries for a while.” During the planning of the pantry event, Mrs. Boyer was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
“We began to plan ongoing help for Rogette, and that’s how we started #1BIGFamily. After being here for five years and supporting local charities and benefits, I thought, ‘we can do this!’ We can ask our family, friends and partners to help us to help this family. Even new business partners have been wonderful and generous. Ginny Givens, for example, who owns Ginny’s Embroidery in Monroe, donated a $400 auction item. I had just met her at a business expo. It’s incredible, really. This is a business relationship I will continue forever. It’s generous beyond measure to me. We have found that individuals and business owners here are very, very kind. They have a compassion for those in this situation.”
It is the compassion of the community to which the Bone Island Grillhouse employees hope to appeal at an upcoming fundraiser for Rogette Boyer. Aimed toward raising financial support for this local family, the event is planned for July 23, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Local talent Amy Rae, Mama Dear, Ronnie Pittman, and an Elvis Tribute entertainer (Rogette’s own husband!) will be entertaining the crowd. The event will be held at the Eatonton location of Bone Island Grillhouse, and tickets can be purchased there.
“This is going to be really fun, and we’re going to make it a success,” Kara exclaims. “The #1BIGFamily event is something I can see us doing on an annual basis, now.” As Fuller turns to Rogette she takes her hand and says, “We’re going to be celebrating your victory, Rogette. You are not defeated. And we’re going to get past this together.”