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Former Volleyball and Softball Mom: Faith, school, family bond STM survisors -Debbie Boullion Landry

Amanda McElfresh, The Advertiser, Oct. 21, 2015


St. Thomas More teachers Debbie Landry, Amy Triche, Ashley Noto, and Laura Trahan talk of their experiences surving cancer and how it has changed their lives.(Photo: James Billeaudeau, Special to The Advertiser)
Four teachers at St. Thomas More Catholic High School have become advocates for early breast cancer detection after surviving the disease.

Debbie Landry, Ashley Noto, Laura Trahan and Amy Triche all are teaching and thriving at STM, but it wasn’t always that way. All four women have gone through breast cancer treatments, and said the support of their school was a key part of their journeys.

“I didn’t have to tell my students, because I was diagnosed in the summer, but I did have to come in the summer and talk to the administration,” said Noto, who teaches algebra and math. “I was just very overwhelmed by the reception and the warmth and the love. Everyone said ‘we understand’ and ‘what can we do?’ I just felt very supported and loved.”

Landry, an algebra and geometry teacher, relied on Noto, who was diagnosed about six months before Landry received the same diagnosis from her doctors.

“Ashley was the first person I told on campus,” Landry said. “She was my mentor. I called her every day and talked to her just about every day to ask her what to do and where to go and what to find out. She was very helpful.”

Landry said the experience also was jarring for her students, especially when she left right before the Thanksgiving break for treatment. Many were dealing with the shock of seeing a beloved teacher who had looked healthy suddenly dealing with cancer, she said. Still, they rallied behind her and offered support.

“I had a lot of emails. I got cards weekly from them,” Landry said. “It reassured me that I’m at the right place teaching. This is a family. We believe in being a family around here, and we support each other, the students as well as the teachers and faculty. It just reiterated the reason I teach here.”

Triche said the support she received also reaffirmed her feeling that she belongs at STM. Although a Diocese of Lafayette policy allows schools to replace teachers after three months of medical leave, Triche said school administrators never considered that an option.

“For all of us, they said ‘no way’ to that,” Triche said. “They said ‘you worry about yourself, and come back when you can come back.’ And that is not a reception that you would receive everywhere, and that’s what makes STM so special. It is a family, and they care about you. I feel like the only reason I was able to get through it was the grace that I received through prayer from everybody here and my family.”

Nowadays, the teachers watch with pride as students wear pink and have events to raise breast cancer awareness. The football, volleyball and softball teams, among others, have all hosted special fundraisers or worn pink as part of their uniforms to keep the issue in the forefront. And the educators themselves feel a new responsibility to spread the word about regular medical visits and exams.

“It was my first mammogram ever,” Trahan said of the test that detected her cancer. “I was turning 40, and that’s when mine was found. It does not run in my family. My mom and her four sisters have never had it. It was only through the mammogram that I found it. I am truly blessed to be here.”

Triche said the disease also does not run in her family. Because she was diagnosed at age 29, she has focused on spreading awareness among younger women.

“I found it on my own, which is rare, especially for women who are under the age of a routine mammogram,” she said. “You have to be aware that it can happen to any of us.”

Athletic Network Footnote by Ed Dugas:
Click here for Volleyball 1988, then click on team picture for photo of Debbie Boullion Landry and her teammates.

Click here for story on daughter Shellie Landry (UL Softball Player), which includes background information on the struggle her family endured.