The light in the office of Eunice football coach Paul Trosclair never went dim.
While Trosclair was away in Houston for two months starting in December at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for a stem cell transplant to combat his multiple myeloma, the light served as a beacon to his players who curiously passed his door.
“We wanted to make sure everybody knew,” Eunice defensive coordinator Durell Peloquin said. “Even though he still wasn’t here, we were acting on his behalf.”
Symbolically the light also represented hope in that Trosclair, who was diagnosed with the relatively uncommon form of cancer summer of 2014, would make a triumphant return to the football field.
Doctors weren’t exactly enamored with such plans, citing the stress and temperament of the job, but it provided something tangible for Trosclair to work toward during some of his more dark and harrowing days of treatment.
“I didn’t want to be that guy that said he was going to go home and feel sorry for myself,” Trosclair said. “I didn’t have time for that. My doctor told me I was kind of crazy, but that’s OK.”
In the goal-oriented world of athletics, Trosclair’s desire was to lead his team through spring drills, doing so two months ahead of doctors’ projections.
The next objective was for the 59-year-old to embark on his 36th season on the sideline and his 21st as head coach at Eunice where the No. 10 Bobcats (3-0) are off to a fast start with No. 8 Crowley (3-0) coming to town Friday at 7 p.m.
“When we break, we say ‘Team Tros’ because we’re doing it for him,” Eunice senior running back/wide receiver Wesley Hebert said. “Before a game and after a win, we ask, ‘Who’s got your back’? We’ve got coach Tros’ back. We’re going to give him what he deserves.”
The warning signs
Trosclair, a native of Opelousas, where he played football, said he started to feel fatigued during the spring of 2014, a period in which his blood pressure spiked and kidneys weren’t functioning properly.
On the advice of his kidney doctor, a biopsy was performed when Trosclair was diagnosed that summer.
“I started reading about it, and it wasn’t good,” Trosclair said. “That’s when I started dealing with the people (MD Anderson) in Houston.”
Trosclair was startled to read the cancer had a “two to four- year life expectancy,” but according to the National Cancer Institute, survival through advanced treatments could be extended “10 to 20 years or more.”
Moreover, Trosclair said he was told by his doctor rather matter-of-factly, the cancer is incurable but treatable and put a plan into motion to bring it into remission.
Multiple myeloma, which affects 22,000 people annually, according to the National Cancer Institute, is a cancer of a type of immune cell originating in bone marrow, referred to as plasma cells. They produce disease-fighting antibodies that typically “crowd out” healthy blood cells that shield the body from harmful substances.
Reaching a milestone
Despite the diagnosis and scheduled treatments of chemotherapy, Trosclair wanted to coach the 2014 season.
Trosclair traveled to Opelousas for some of his treatments but missed only a handful of practices when he was in Houston.
With the start of the 2014 season, Trosclair, the school’s winningest coach and who also took Eunice to consecutive state runner-up finishes in 1997-98, was one win shy of joining Louisiana’s exclusive 200-win club.
Trosclair became the 50th member of the fraternity when Eunice defeated Northwest 28-21 in the season opener. He’s since moved into a tie for 40th with 206 career wins — a total that currently ranks eighth among active coaches.
“Personally, I don’t know who could go through that and still be able to perform his duties as the head football coach and athletic director,” Peloquin said.
Not even a season-ending 40-point victory was enough for Eunice (4-6) to salvage its season.
A promising 3-1 start quickly dissolved under the weight of a five-game losing streak with three games being decided by less than a touchdown, and upon the conclusion Trosclair left for MD Anderson for two months.
‘It appears to be in remission’
Trosclair explained his stem cell transplant as a process in which all of his good cells were extracted and then frozen. He said doctors then killed off “everything else” and returned the good cells where they could multiply and take over.
Powerful sessions of chemotherapy followed and eventually caused Trosclair, a fit and avid golfer, to lose weight and all of his hair.
“I’ve always been in shape,” he said. “But the people that were not or older, I don’t know how they go through it.”
Two weeks of Trosclair’s stay were spent in the hospital with the rest at an adjacent apartment where his wife, Irma, and five children spent with him.
The support of the Eunice community and high school were at the forefront of his recovery efforts. Trosclair received visits, phone calls, texts, cards and letters.
Peloquin said the school initiated fundraisers to help defray costs, both of which were successes, ranging from a gumbo sale to green bracelets with paw prints and ‘Team Tros’ adorned on them.
Hebert attributes much of Eunice’s success to the inspiration their coach has become in their eyes. Trosclair said it’s the sum of the entire program, rooted in the leadership of the Bobcats’ 17-member senior class.
More than the prosperity of the team is the encouraging prospects for Trosclair, who after eight months removed from stem cell transplant surgery, is on the road to recovery. A recent checkup in Houston for blood work and bone scans showed no signs of myeloma cells.
“It’s always lurking there somewhere, but my counts are so low it’s good,” Trosclair said. “It appears to be in remission right now, which is great. That’s what I’m going with.”