If one travels down to Cut Off to visit the studio of Tracy Plaisance, a renowned local artist, they would discover an energetic, welcoming personality. She could possibly show them her archery technique, present pictures of her travels across the world or of a 40-pound black drum she caught in the marsh behind her home or share the inspiration behind some of her favorite works of art. She may even pick up her guitar and sing a tune for them even though “my husband says I can’t sing,” Tracy smiles.
Full of lighthearted jokes, laughter and spirit, anyone in the presence of the painter is sure to have a good time — and without realizing she has a disease so severe that she’s beating the odds every single day she wakes up.
In 2018 while on her dream vacation with her husband Toby in France, visiting areas once inhabited by artists who inspired her, Tracy started feeling nauseated one afternoon. “I didn’t think anything was that wrong,” she remembers. “That night, I had two grand mal seizures.”
“The only thing I remember was the light and being loaded into an ambulance,” Tracy continues. “And I woke up four days later in the ICU.”
After she spent a whole week in a rural hospital in France, her doctors advised her that she could continue the three days left on her trip, but she should take it easy. “I still had no idea that there was a tumor in my head. They knew,” Tracy says. “I would have sobbed the whole way back.”
Her doctor back home advised her to see a specialist at the Ochsner Benson Cancer Center in the Greater New Orleans area. He showed her the MRI from France which revealed the tumor and said, “This has to come out right away.”
A few days later, she underwent a six-hour surgery to have her tumor removed. The surgery went well; however, it would be the pathology report that would say if she was in the clear, her doctor told her. Unfortunately, while her husband was there right beside her crying, she found out she had Stage 4 brain cancer.
“When the pathology report came in, I asked him, ‘How long do I have to live,’” Tracy shares. “‘We don’t do that here. You could have depression,’ he said. ‘Everybody’s case is different.’”
Yet, the artist had to find out for herself, so she researched. “People generally live three to 18 months, tops,” she says. “So, I’m beating the odds.”
Not only does she have glioblastoma, a type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord, but it’s also recurrent. In July of 2019, Tracy started her treatment of Avastin to shrink her second tumor, which she says has been working well.
In the present day, with chemotherapy treatment, blood work and analysis, among other occasions, Tracy has to visit a doctor or hospital five to eight times a month.
But for Tracy, it’s about remaining optimistic and staying busy to not let her disease destroy her enthusiasm and love for life.
Although not being able to continue live-painting at events, which led her to become internationally acclaimed and ranked in the top 5 in the country, she still takes the time to either paint every day or engage in another craft.
“I like to be productive. That makes me happy,” says Tracy, who has been painting since she was five years old. “For me, keeping my hands busy and my mind occupied keeps me out of that dark place wondering, ‘how long?’”
A native of Missouri turned Cajun, Tracy finds joy in the simple things in life, such as having a morning cup of coffee with Toby or playing with their two dogs.
And of course, she enjoys her singing and guitar. “I like to have fun. I don’t really care if people think I’m good or not,” she jokes. “But I am pretty good at guitar.”
“My daughter comes in and she’s like, ‘Mom, I can hear you down the road!’ I’m like, ‘great,’” she smiles. “When people meet me they might think, ‘This lady is crazy.’ I’m really not. I just love life.”
Grateful for each new day, Tracy made sure to thank her family and the medical team at Ochsner, who she also refers to as “family” and who “saved my life.”
The local inspiration also offers advice for others out there facing a cancer diagnosis.
“One of the number one pieces of advice I would give to someone is to keep your family close,” she shares. “Another thing is to stay positive, no matter what. Whatever can make you stay positive, you have to do,” she shares. “You cannot let the negative thought get in there. You have to find a way to get your happiness back.” POV