Vendor Fred Boykin: Life in Dorchester, life with cancer

This is for all the victims of the world, all the people like me: we were not born with cancer, but it still chose us. You can be young or old, it still picks you. I had lung cancer at first, at the end of 2015. The hospital, Boston Medical Center, wanted to take a piece of my lung. I said no and instead took 35 days of radiation, nine days of chemo and one hour of fluid five days a week. People told me these treatments drain them, but it actually gave me more energy, because I’m a fighter.

My mother died of cancer. My father died of lung cancer. My sister died three and half years ago — she had colon cancer. She was a nurse at Brigham and Women’s for 20 years.

I was diagnosed with liver cancer one month ago. The doctor came to me with tears in her eyes after taking my blood and said “you have three or four weeks to live.” But I might be able to live one or two years longer thanks to a follow up.

I’m going through this alone, just me and God. But at least I’m back in Dorchester, where I grew up. All the time I see people that know me. They were little when I grew up. One guy remembers that when he was little, he got lost and  I helped him find his way home.

As a kid in Dorchester, it was like I grew up five different ways. First, there was my aunt, a schoolteacher. She taught me right from wrong. There was a local preacher, Rev. Samuel Anderson. I was like a son to him, and when he preached, his voice went right through you. I helped the Black Panther Party back in 1978, and was under their arm. My cousin was a Vietnam vet who taught me how to block and punch at the same time. There was even a Black mafia guy, always told me “if anybody bothers you, point him out and I’ll do the rest.”

People are glad to see me, especially my customers. They always ask if they can get me anything. I ask for coffee or a sub, they go and bring it back. I’m still selling Spare Change News in Center Street in JP, sitting on my crates as usual.

Top