South Deerfield man looks to inspire with Shea Theater talk on cancer battle

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 08-29-2023 12:22 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer about seven years ago, South Deerfield resident Frank Marchand, 67, doesn’t expect his life to last much longer. And yet, the 47-year plumber isn’t worried about what’s down the pipeline for him.

“Do I want to sit on the sofa, watch TV, eat chips, drink soda and worry about what’s growing inside of me?” Marchand, who has “barely taken a day off since he was diagnosed,” told New England Public Radio’s Karen Brown in an interview that was nationally publicized by NPR last spring. “Because now, [my immune system] is going to deal with bile and anxiety and angst about what’s going on that you can’t control.”

This philosophy, which Marchand likened to “taking a deep breath and letting it out,” will be the theme of “I Can Die Happy Now,” a motivational talk he will give at the Shea Theater Arts Center Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Marchand will “open his vocal pipes and let his raw and unfiltered story flow freely” as he looks to nurture healthy mindsets, the Shea’s event posting describes.

“The decisions I’ve had to make … there’s an abundance of wisdom I’ve learned that I must share,” Marchand said, noting that this will be his first time public speaking since he was a teenager. “I’m hoping it inspires people to step away from the pandemic, reacquaint themselves with the world around them and reconcile what they can from the past because you’ll be paid back tenfold.”

Marchand’s six-minute NPR segment stemmed from an impromptu conversation he had with Brown, who was one of his plumbing clients.

“I knew I wanted to do a story on my plumber, Frank Marchand, when he first showed up to my house for a job wearing a hospital bracelet,” Brown explained in her coverage. “When I apologized for asking him to work in those circumstances, he assured me there was nowhere he’d rather be. … So the next time I called him — to figure out why my toilet tank was leaking — I asked if I could bring out my tape recorder.”

Marchand said he was “completely blindsided and humbled” by the piece’s reception, adding that he received postcards and letters from all over the country sent by people he’d impacted. He was further “honored” to have been invited by the Shea Theater to give a talk soon after.

The talk will expand upon elements of Marchand’s NPR interview, he explained. This will include a “step by step” telling of how he “rekindled the relationship in some pretty hysterical ways” with his childhood imaginary friend, who’d vanished as Marchand grew into adulthood before finally reappearing shortly after his surgeon told him his cancer was terminal. Marchand will also relay some “off the wall” stories from his plumbing career before closing out his talk with a “twist.”

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“The whole idea of this evening,” Marchand said, “is to make people cry their eyes out at some stuff and laugh so hard their stomach hurts at other stuff.”

Tickets are priced on a $15 to $20 sliding scale and can be purchased at rb.gy/y1zg9.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.]]>