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Survivor Pat Tricquet: Cancer's given more than it's taken

CANCER CHRONICLES PART 5: Breast cancer survivor recently celebrated 5th anniversary of her cancer 'journey'

Pat Tricquet, an associate broker for RE/MAX of Albany, recently marked the fifth anniversary of the start of her treatment for breast cancer. Tricquet praises the efforts of the staff at the Phoebe Cancer Center on her behalf. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Pat Tricquet, an associate broker for RE/MAX of Albany, recently marked the fifth anniversary of the start of her treatment for breast cancer. Tricquet praises the efforts of the staff at the Phoebe Cancer Center on her behalf. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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Pat Tricquet, standing beside her daughter Ashley and behind her son Joby, said her family was instrumental in helping her survive breast cancer. (Special photo)

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Pat Tricquet, left, started her cancer treatment on daughter Ashley Tricquet’s 36th birthday. Mother and daughter recently celebrated Ashley’s 41st birthday. (Special photo)

ALBANY — Maybe it was irony. Perhaps divine intervention. That’s a question better suited for deeper minds.

CANCER CHRONICLES

This is the final installment of a five-day series on indivduals and physicians coping with cancer.

But Pat Tricquet remembers vividly the sign she saw hanging in her doctor’s office during a visit in early October 2008. And there’s no question where Tricquet stands on the nature of the “October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month” reminder hanging in Dr. John Bennett’s office.

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“I think about that sign a lot,” said Tricquet, who recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of her treatment for breast cancer, which included a radical bilateral mastectomy. “If I were not aware of breast cancer, aware of the need for self-examination, we wouldn’t be here having this conversation.”

Here on this day is in Tricquet’s RE/MAX of Albany office, where she works as an associate broker. The conversation is about her journey from “accidentally” discovering a lump on her breast to coping with the aftermath of surgery to using the love of her family as motivation to come back as strong as ever and enjoy “every day that God gives me.”

“Everything happened so fast, it was like it was happening to someone else,” Tricquet said. “When Dr. (Chirag) Jani told me a biopsy showed that the tumor in my breast was malignant, I started telling him that there had to be a mistake, that there was no breast cancer in my family. He looked at me with those kind eyes and said, ‘You’re the random one.’”

Tricquet had long been proactive in maintaining a health regimen that included yearly mammograms. When she made her 2008 visit to her OB/GYN, all tests showed she was fine. Nine weeks later, though, she “quite by accident” noticed a sizeable lump on her breast. She called Bennett’s office on Wednesday morning, and by the next day a tumor indicating an aggressive form of cancer had been detected.

Early the next week, on Halloween, Tricquet’s two children — daughter Ashley and son Ron “Joby” Tricquet — joined their mother at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s Carlton Breast Center to map out a strategy for her fight against breast cancer.

“What I remember most about that day was being numb and being led around like a puppy,” Tricquet said. “My children were wonderful, and they asked all the right questions. When they asked Dr. Jani what he would do if it were his mother or wife, Jani looked them in the eye and said, ‘I wouldn’t take my mom anywhere else.’ I think at that moment I gained a peace that I was where I was supposed to be.”

If Tricquet had any doubts about her commitment to treatment at Phoebe, she said they were erased when she, in a moment of fear-based inspiration, asked God to send her a sign that she was on the right path.

“As I said, it was Halloween, and most of the staff at the hospital came to work that day in costume,” Tricquet says with a smile. “Almost immediately after I offered up that prayer, in walks a doctor’s assistant dressed as an angel. And she was a brain cancer survivor.”

Tricquet’s real journey began, ironically enough, on Ashley’s 36th birthday when she started chemotherapy treatment prescribed to combat the aggressive cancer. From Nov. 13 to the end of February she received rounds of chemo every two weeks, and on March 30 she had surgery. A pathology report post-surgery showed that the treatment had been spot-on, and the margins around the cancerous area were clear. Tricquet had seven weeks of precutionary radiation treatment, and suddenly “remission” became a vital part of her vocabulary.

And she had gained a monumental respect for the oncology team at the Phoebe Cancer Center.

“From the day that I started my journey, there was never a time that I felt alone,” Tricquet said. “The staff at the breast center and the other patients in the infusion room (where chemotherapy is administered) became part of my extended family. I never thought about dying, and I was completely confident that I was being treated at the right place.

“I believe survival requires hope, faith and confidence, and I was confident I was getting the best care anywhere in the world. I also felt that if there was ever a point where they felt I needed to go somewhere else, they would never have hesitated to ship me off. It wasn’t about drumming up business.”

Enjoying her new lease on life, Tricquet has started working on bucket-list items, so much so Joby has kidded her that she might need to start adding to that list.

“I would never wish cancer on my worst enemy,” she said. “But cancer has given me so much more than it’s ever taken away. “I’ve never sat and worried that my breasts — my womanhood — are gone. What’s gone is my cancer.

“Through my journey, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, I’m not going to miss the dance. I would tell any woman, if she has to have breast cancer, there’s no better place to have it than Albany, Georgia. Through this whole process, I feel like my feet have never hit the ground. It’s felt like there were angels flying with me.”