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Breast cancer journey remembered with memorial walk

LAPLACE — Gaynelle Perrilloux Ellis will always be remembered for Sunday meals, family trips, daily talks and the unconditional love she showed to her children and grandchildren.

Gaynelle passed away February 6, 2020 at age 51 following a valiant five-year battle with breast cancer. This Sunday, her family will honor her memory when they “Walk the 9” from Our Lady of Grace Church to at 284 Chad B. Baker Street in Reserve.

The walk, which begins at noon Oct. 11, will be known as the inaugural “Sweet G Pink Day Celebration.”

“Sweet G” was an affectionate nickname given to Gaynelle by her husband, Lamar Ellis. He said her loving spirit made the nickname a perfect fit.

As sweet as Gaynelle was, she was also undeniably strong.

“Her biggest thing was her strength. She gave that strength to her whole family, even through the trying times of her own life,” Ellis said. “She was definitely the backbone of the family, and she always was encouraging. Even when she was fighting her own fight with cancer, she would still be supportive and still be heartfelt through all of the obstacles she endured.”

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month last year, Gaynelle shared with L’OBSERVATEUR that she was always proactive about her health and diligent to keep medical check-ups. When she started experiencing excruciating breast pain in 2015, she saw several doctors.

What was first speculated to be nerve pain turned out to be stage four breast cancer after doctors removed a cyst 10 months later. Gaynelle underwent a mastectomy and the removal of 18 lymph nodes, followed by 12 rounds of weekly chemotherapy.

A scan three months later showed the cancer had spread to her bones. A chemotherapy pill was able to stabilize her condition for more than a year.

In October 2019, Gaynelle was receiving monthly chemotherapy for two spots on her liver and staying busier than ever.

Gaynelle spent her final years on Earth living life to its fullest.

“I travel a lot and look at life differently,” she told L’OBSERVATEUR in 2019. “Every day is precious, and I don’t take things for granted.”

Talking about her cancer journey at church encouraged others to be proactive about their health.

Lamar Ellis said those who knew Gaynelle knew she always found a way to be a helping hand to any person or organization. She loved being a friend and offering personal advice.

She also loved to cook, and Ellis said the entire family has yearned for her gumbo since the cooler weather rolled in.

“Her spirit is still alive, and we want to continue to keep that encouraging and loving spirit that she gave to us to others. That is what the walk will represent, the encouragement and the fighting power that she had,” Ellis said.

Ellis is looking forward to a socially distanced, great time with loved ones this weekend as everyone wears pink and walks in Gaynelle’s honor.

Gaynelle’s sister, Dayna Perrilloux Mitchell, said the route has a special significance. As a child, Gaynelle grew up in the Catholic faith and attended Our Lady of Grace, the starting point of the walk.

As an adult, Gaynelle was a faithful member of the Antioch Baptist Church.

The walk continues from Our Lady of Grace to 29th Street in Reserve, where Gaynelle was born and raised, and finally reaches Chad B. Baker Street.

“We love our community. We call it the ‘9’,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell will always remember annual Super Bowl parties, family gatherings and her sister’s loving spirit.

“It’s important to honor her because she always shared her story and journey of breast cancer awareness to make sure people listen to their bodies. She always said she didn’t want anyone to go through what she went through if she could have been able to help any of them,” Mitchell said. “We’re doing this in honor of her because we want to keep her legacy alive. She was very special to our family! OUR GLUE!”