On Sept. 24 Belinda Clouatre received the kind of news every mother dreads – her daughter Addie Will was diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer.
“I finally moved back into home after the May flood and that’s the day I got the news of Addie’s diagnosis,” Clouatre said. “They immediately started the chemo on her, and then they found it in the bone. It’s been a difficult journey.”
Will, who works as an oncology nurse, missed early signs of the cancer because they mimicked issues related to her birth defects.
“As a mother you go there,” Clouatre said of bargaining with God. “You think, ‘I’ll take it all from her … I’ve lived my life, just give her full life.’ She inspires me … she always has her whole entire life.”
Will was born with birth defects and had her first surgery at just 2 hours old.
“It’s almost like at her adult stage I had a false security. She’s had so much happen in her younger life,” Clouatre said. “She had 36 surgeries in first 2 and half years of life.”
Clouatre said Will’s diagnosis pushed her deeper into her faith.
“I went into serious, begging prayer mode,” Clouatre said. “She’s already had miracles in her life. There were three different times that they handed her to me and said, ‘We’ve done all we can do.” A friend told me, ‘Addie has been God’s project since before she was born, what makes you think God is going to give up with his project now?’”
Just five weeks after Will’s diagnosis, Clouatre was told she had breast cancer.
“I had no idea. They found it in a yearly mammogram,” Clouatre, a St. Charles Parish native and resident, said. “They called me in for more tests and I thought, ‘This is nothing.’”
Then the call came that there was cancer.
“My main focus is my child,” Clouatre said. “My cancer to me is an untimely inconvenience. I told my doctors, ‘Let’s get this out of the way … I have bigger fish to fry.’”
For Will, the news of Clouatre’s diagnosis was heartbreaking.
“I could tell that she had a hard time telling me … that she didn’t want to add anything to me,” Will said. “She talked to my husband first.”
Clouatre’s Nov. 30 surgery revealed the cancer had already started to spread into surrounding lymph nodes, but the surgeon was able to get a clear margin. She is currently awaiting a treatment plan.
Both the mother and daughter said the pandemic has complicated their situation.
“The hardest thing in fighting this together for us is that we’re also fighting against COVID too,” Clouatre said. “We can’t hug each other, we can’t kiss each other and we can’t hold each other. We visit outside with masks on and six feet apart.”
“I would love to give my mom a huge hug and kisses and just love on her and have her love on me,” Will said. “It’s such a weird time … when you really need someone’s embrace. It has been a struggle and I would love to visit more, but with both of us being immunocompromised it’s really life or death.”
In spite of every hardship, Clouatre said Will remains inspiring.
“She told me, ‘Mom, I don’t know how to explain this to people but there’s something deep in my inner most being … in my soul … that I know I’ll be fine,” Clouatre said.
Will, who lives in Hammond, recently found out that her cancer has progressed to stage 4.
“I just feel like I’m going to get through this and I just have to push through … keep my head down and just do what I have to do,” Will said. “It’s never been a question to me whether this is the end of my story, I just feel in my heart that I just need to get through this.”
Will said her coworkers at Baton Rouge General, as well as her mother, father and husband David, have been a great support system. She recently completed four cycles of chemotherapy and is now waiting for a diagnostic biopsy to determine how well the treatment worked.
“It’s all about positivity as an oncology nurse,” Will said. “I’ve seen patient’s attitudes really change their prognosis. A positive person is going to go so much farther and be so much happier and healthier.”
A benefit was recently held at St. Charles Borromeo for Will and Clouatre, who works in the Rectory at the church.
“The people that spearheaded that were people I went to high school with,” Clouatre said. “There are 13 of us that grew up very close. I am in awe of the community’s support and care.”
Clouatre said she will not stop fighting for her, as well as her daughter’s, health.
“We need miracle prayers …. that’s what we need,” she said.