Those who have spent any time in St. Charles Parish Hospital may know Hahnville native Tressy Perrier.
Perrier, 48, has worked in the dietary and food services department at the hospital for the past six years and has been known to dress in outrageous outfits in order to bring a smile to the faces of patients recovering at the facility.
“I wear my little costumes and everything and I try to uplift patients. I’m always dressing up,” she said. “I am more of a happy go lucky, jump around and be hyper person. Live, laugh and love is all I’ve ever done and I’ve participated in a lot of activities.”
The mother to five and grandmother to four said she likes to make people happy, especially when they are in need.
So it was a role reversal for her when she found a lump in her breast and visited her doctor to have it checked last September.
“I didn’t think it was much,” Perrier said. “One of my cousins had fatty tissues in her breast and it was calcium buildup. That’s all I thought it was. When I got there and they told me what it was, it hit me kind of hard because you know nobody wants to hear the ‘c’ word.”
Perrier was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“When you first hear that it takes a while for your mind to wrap around the concept of this is what is going on in your life,” she said.
Two days after her diagnosis she had surgery to remove the lump from her breast and a follow-up surgery three days after that to remove lymph nodes after doctors found the strain of cancer she had was very aggressive.
Then she entered chemotherapy treatments, enduring two rounds over the next six months, followed by six weeks of radiation therapy.
During that time she said her life completely changed.
“It’s like everything was a big sunshine and then it’s like you are walking with clouds over you. It’s not the sunshine like it used to be,” Perrier said.
Due to the chemotherapy treatments, she lost her hair, then lost her appetite and began to lose weight. It got to the point where she would be turned away for chemotherapy because she was not taking in enough nutrients and liquids.
“I got so sick, somebody had to drive me to get chemo. I thank my family, they are awesome,” she said. “There was nothing I could do for myself. They had to bandage, wash and feed me.”
On a daily basis her aunt Anna Johnson, cousin Stephanie Dinvaut, friend Terry McCray and brother Jerry Brown provided her assistance.
In addition to providing her with daily support, she said it was the idea of being able to spend more time with her family that helped her get through the treatments.
“My kids were awesome,” she said. “They were there for me and supported me. Even in my hardest times I was telling them to bring my grandkids over because if I see them playing that gives me the energy to fight. I thought about my kids, that was my main goal, to be here for my kids and my grandkids to try even harder to get better.”
Perrier, who attends Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Boutte, said her faith in God also helped.
“No matter how hard my days were I always laid in bed and I prayed to the Lord through it all,” she said.
Over a year after her original diagnosis and subsequent surgery and treatment, Perrier’s health is improving and doctors have been unable to detect any recurrence of cancer.
While undergoing treatment she was unable to work and has just recently returned to her job.
“I don’t see that bright sunshine, but I do see the light of day and it is better than what it was,” she said. “Before I left work for treatment I used to go in the patients’ rooms and deliver the trays. Right now it is too early for me to go to the patients’ rooms, but I still visit.”
Perrier said she was very lucky to have found the lump when she did, which she attributes to being very aware of the potential for breast cancer.
Just last week Perrier seemed back to her old self, dressing up just for breast cancer awareness month and visiting patients in their rooms.
“I had a pink tutu, a pink shirt and a pink big old hat,” she said.
The outfit was part of her attempt to now try to spread the word to others about beast cancer awareness.
“I want to reach people so that they can hear my story and they can see how I’m pushing forward,” she said. “Don’t let anything block you from getting your test, your mammogram. Don’t let anything hinder you from saving yourself because you never know. And the same way I got through it you can get through it. Have your mammogram, don’t be afraid to check yourself.”