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Promise - Fall 2011

Harold Baquet of New Orleans says a simple coping mechanism has helped him through life-changing events such as  losing his son to cancer, surviving Hurricane Katrina and dealing with his own cancer diagnosis: "It's just love."
Photo by John Everett

Cancer Survivor Savors Photo-Worthy Moments 
Thanks to MD Anderson Experience


By Michelle Moore

Harold Baquet is a modern Renaissance man with plenty of faith to spare. A photographer from New Orleans, Baquet refuses to let anything come between him and his dreams, especially not cancer.

“When I was first diagnosed with colon cancer, it was post-Hurricane Katrina and health care in New Orleans was terrible. I tried to book a colonoscopy for a year,” says Baquet. “When I finally did, it was discovered that I had cancer and it had already spread to my liver.”

With little hope offered by local doctors, Baquet refused to believe the worst. His faith and the prayers of his family, friends and community gave him strength.

“It was humbling,” says Baquet. “It’s nothing to be described or modeled scientifically or mathematically. It’s just love.”

That love, he says, was also evident in the hearts of the volunteers and staff at 
MD Anderson.

Finding MD Anderson

“I was thankful to find MD Anderson. While in recovery, the previous doctor in New Orleans told my family that I had three to 18 months to live. A consulting physician refused to see my case, citing the same statistics,” he says. 

“I told my wife, Cheron, we should get a second opinion, and she was nice enough not to tell me that was the second opinion. From the beginning, she believed a liver re-section would save my life and the person and place to do that was Dr. Curley at MD Anderson.”

Steven Curley, M.D., professor of Surgical Oncology, was working with patients who had metastatic liver cancer resulting from the spread of cancer from other parts of the body, as Baquet’s had.

“Dr. Curley didn’t blow us off. He gave us hope,” says Baquet. “He’s a rock star, and when he walks down the hall, I hear a rock anthem. Meeting him was important and powerful.”

This was, however, not the first time that cancer had struck Baquet in such a personal way. He lost his 3-year-old son, Harold Jr., to leukemia, as well as his father and brother to lung cancer. His sister is a colon cancer survivor.

“You see it all around you, and you feel like you’re just waiting your turn,” says Baquet. “The one thing I didn’t anticipate was being able to fight it so well.”

At 53, Baquet looks back on a varied career path. He’s been a weapons mechanic in the Louisiana Air National Guard, a licensed electrician, a scuba instructor and the official photographer for the first black Mayor of the City of New Orleans.

Looking through the lens

Baquet finds his greatest passion through the lens of a camera. He currently works at Loyola University New Orleans, where he’s been university photographer for the past two decades.

“When I lost little Harold, my priorities became different,” says Baquet. “I was willing to sacrifice and starve to do what I wanted in life and follow my passions. I was interested in photography from a young age, and I’ve been fortunate to pursue it as a career.”

He describes himself as a “people photographer” who enjoys the opportunity to share in others’ beautiful memories.

“People are the noblest, most worthy subject there is,” he says. “I still get excited that they let me into their lives.”

Baquet says he owes his ability to enjoy those photo-worthy moments to the people at MD Anderson.

“The culture at MD Anderson fosters an incredible community of healers,” says Baquet. “Every encounter with people on staff affirms that you’re loved, and I don’t use that word lightly. It’s something amazing. From volunteers and receptionists to radiology technicians and phlebotomists, I was allowed to maintain my dignity. There’s a mission and a grand strategy. You can move a mountain with this kind of organization.”


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center