Silver Lining

Silver Lining
Silver Lining

"If you're ever gonna find a silver lining It's gotta be a cloudy day." - Kacey Musgraves


Hi!  My name is Julie Piché and I am a wife, mother of three girls who are all still at home, and a grade 7 and 8 teacher. I am also a nineteen-month pancreatic cancer survivor.

My story began in September, 2013, with stomach pains at night. After three weeks, I went to my family doctor and was told it was gastric reflux, given pills to take, and had some tests. The pain went away but then recurred in February. I had another ultrasound and they saw something unusual on my ovaries. Time passed and more ultrasounds were ordered until finally I had surgery in June, 2014, to remove two very large cysts on my ovaries. The cysts were benign and I spent my summer recovering. However, I also spent my summer sleeping upright in a La-Z-Boy chair because my back pain was excruciating whenever I lay down. I went to my family doctor and had another ultrasound on my kidneys. By September, I was sleeping about three hours each night and then working all day. The results of my latest ultrasound showed no problems with my kidneys and my family doctor recommended massage therapy. My follow-up appointment with my surgeon was the turning point: he insisted that I had fully recovered from my surgery and that everything was fine. But I knew that everything was NOT fine! I made another appointment with my family doctor. The massage therapy had relieved much of my back pain so that it was now focused in one spot: mid back, right side. My family doctor was sure it was gall stones and ordered another ultrasound. This time, the ultrasound showed "sludge" in my gall bladder and a "spot" on my pancreas. That same afternoon, I had a CT scan. The results were in by Friday afternoon, November 7, 2014. I called my family doctor during my lunch break and found out that there was a tumour on my pancreas. Worst possible news to hear! My doctor recommended that I take a leave from work since I would need the time to go to appointments and focus on my health. I left work that day and haven't gone back.
The worst part of this entire diagnosis happened the following Monday. My husband and I met with my family doctor to hear the news. We learned a lot about pancreatic cancer that evening and then had to share it with our three girls. That was, by far, the hardest part of my news. But we were honest, up front, and shared everything that we knew. The statistics were tough to swallow, but I was only 45 years old and in the best physical shape I'd been in in a long time, running three times a week and doing other strength exercises. I vowed to them that I would fight and that I would do whatever it takes to get better!

Appointments came quickly after my diagnosis and I am so blessed that in London, Ontario, we have access to great health care and so many amazing doctors and nurses. I had another CT scan, an endoscopic ultrasound, and then a meeting with a surgical oncologist. On November 30, 2014, he gave my husband and me all the news. We were hopeful that surgery would be possible, knowing that the best odds come after surgery. Our hopes were shattered! The 5cm pancreatic tumour was wrapped around the celiac artery and the aorta so surgery was not an option. As well, there were tumours in my lung and liver. So, finally a full diagnosis: metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

I was referred to a medical oncologist who gave us more information about port-a-catheters, pancreatic cancer, and chemotherapy. I had surgery to insert my "port" (what a great decision!). My first cycle of Folfirinox was December 16, 2014, and I haven't stopped since!


My diagnosis was so difficult to share with others, especially with those who were far away and didn't see me very often. In fact, my children took the news better than some people because they knew that I hadn't been feeling well for quite some time. I was able to hide my symptoms from most people, long distance friends and family, acquaintances, and colleagues in particular. So, hearing that I had stage 4 pancreatic cancer was a shock to many.
It was how my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances reacted to my diagnosis that gave me strength, inspiration, and hope. Every day, my husband and our girls take care of me. They know when I am having a "slow" day and they understand that it's the chemotherapy and the Neulasta injection that make it a "La-Z-Boy" kind of day. Those are the days when they'll watch television with me, make sure I have good meals and lots to drink, and do some extra chores like dishes and laundry. My girls have learned a lot about empathy and now they are all planning to work in the medical field! 

My family and friends have rallied around me! They visit more often, check in on me, text me, send meals, say prayers, and spread the word about pancreatic cancer. My parents and sisters have helped with Pansies for Pancreatic Cancer, and even raised money through crocheting crafts lots of scarves and hats. My husband is organizing the second Basketball-a-thon at his school to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer Canada.

My colleagues showed their support instantly and continue to look after me, even when I've been away for so long. At first, they organized meals every week. They sent lunches for the girls: fruits and vegetables all ready and packed individually for school! Lasagnas, casseroles, muffins, cookies, and so much more filled my freezer week after week. But the best part was that they were personally delivered each week and I was able to catch up with the latest news at work. It was like I was still there! Best of all, my colleagues have organized a group called "Pints for Piché" at the blood donor clinic. I am so proud of their idea because it helps so many people. Every 56 days, my colleagues from many schools in the city, friends, and acquaintances meet at the blood donor clinic for some social time and some treats! As many as 25 people donate blood but we are surrounded by many who can't give but who still come to support the donors. We are also thrilled to have several 17-year-old children donate, including former students! What a gift they are giving!
The people around me have been my silver lining! This diagnosis is terrible but I have found so much good in this world since finding out I have pancreatic cancer. I have learned to live and love each day and know that it is a blessing. I pray daily, especially prayers of gratitude. I have been given time to see my children compete in so many sports when so often I would have planning, marking, and my own coaching to do. I can spend more time with my parents. I have found my creative side and I spend many hours knitting and painting signs that I give as gifts. So many people have reached out to me and my family, in ways that I would never have imagined. They have created and sold "Pints for Piché" t-shirts, collected money to pay for my wig, researched pancreatic cancer in order to understand this disease, taken me to the clinic for treatment, given rides to activities so that our girls' lives could continue as normal as possible, had the girls over for sleepovers on my "slow" weekends, and just sat with me and talked.

And Waiting for the "After" After Conquering Pancreatic Cancer.

My saying since my diagnosis has been: "The body achieves what the mind believes" and it is working so far. I have had 27 cycles of Folfirinox over the last nineteen months and chemotherapy will continue, at least until my next CT scan. The tumour in my lung is no longer detectable. There are now only two small tumours on my liver where there used to be four. The tumour on my pancreas is smaller and stable. I have taken small breaks from chemotherapy so that my family and I can travel together, making memories. Living our lives to the fullest includes not putting off till tomorrow what we can do today! I continue to be positive and celebrate each success when fighting this disease. I am optimistic about new research and at any time, there could be a study completed that could be the one to turn this fight around in my favour!


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