Empathy from Within

Nurse battling cancer supports patients and survivors in Houma

As a registered nurse, Erica Martin always made her health a priority. For 14 years, she worked as a labor and delivery nurse and currently serves as an office manager at Terrebonne General Medical Center. While performing a self-examination, she felt a small lump in one of her breasts. Though the lump was small, she knew that for a 37-year-old woman to feel anything was enough of a reason to meet with a physician who could tell her more.

In December of 2017, Erica was diagnosed with triple-negative stage 1 breast cancer. Knowing she wanted to be proactive in treatment, she began seeking out local physicians that could provide her with options. Many of her friends and co-workers, who survived breast cancer, suggested she see a breast cancer specialist at Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center.

After an insightful appointment, Erica went home interested in learning more and began talking to others about her diagnosis. Someone Erica knew was being treated at a larger, out-of-state facility, but when she asked about the treatment plan, it was exactly what is offered at Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center.

“When I heard that I could receive the same care and treatment from a cancer center right down the road, I knew there was no better place for me.”

“When I heard that I could receive the same care and treatment from a cancer center right down the road, I knew there was no better place for me.”

Beginning on May 1, 2018, Erica’s treatment plan began with chemotherapy to ensure the cancer would not spread beyond its current location. She also underwent a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction. In doing this, she would significantly reduce the risk of any cancer from returning to this part of her body.

Erica is currently in remission, but is still coping with the fears and anxieties of her diagnosis. She, like many other patients and survivors, are just beginning on the road to recovery.

“There are a lot of people who think that undergoing chemotherapy or surgery is the end to having cancer,” said Melanie Gilbeaux, director of the Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Program. “Though the cancer itself is gone, the remnants of the disease still remain. Cancer leads to physical, emotional and mental challenges that may take years to dissipate.”

For almost 20 years, Erica has devoted her career to caring for others. Because of her diagnosis, she now has the opportunity to use her professional and personal experience to encounter countless women she can assist and encourage throughout their journey. She has also had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends who battled cancer before her, which has helped her heal the non-medical remnants of the disease.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I believe cancer has allowed me to achieve a greater purpose in life. I have become an advocate for prevention and early detection, a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. We need sisters to support us, who understand the struggle of fighting cancer. From 37 to 77, we are all women fighting for our lives.”


Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center offers a wide variety of resources to assist cancer patients and their families throughout their cancer experience. To learn more about the resources offered, visit marybird.org/survivorship.

  • Erica Martin, a nurse at Terrebonne General Medical Center, was diagnosed with triple-negative stage 1 breast cancer in December of 2017.
  • She reflects on the convenient location of Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center and how it impacted her decision to stay in Houma to undergo treatment.
  • Martin discusses how her diagnosis impacted her life and how she found support in other survivors who underwent treatment similar to herself.