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Richard Juneau – Pancreatic Cancer Success Story

An unexpected and unwelcome diagnosis of pancreatic cancer leads to a lifesaving treatment

Richard Juneau was given a second chance to appreciate life.
His success story is about that gift and how he fought pancreatic cancer with the help of his surgeon, dedicated nurses, and caregivers.
It's also about how his wife, Mary, and children gathered to support him, every step of the way.

In January 2004, Granbury, Texas resident Richard "Dick" Juneau wasn't feeling right. He was suffering from severe reflux and started itching all over. His family doctor said that his liver enzymes were elevated and referred him to a GI specialist who saw something suspicious on his pancreas in a CAT scan. Dick was referred to Methodist Dallas Medical Center where an endoscopic ultrasound confirmed a pancreatic tumor. After the diagnosis, he saw Dr. Richard Dickerman, an independently practicing surgeon on the Methodist Health System medical staff who recommended the Whipple procedure and performed surgery to remove the tumor on March 2, 2004, at Methodist Dallas.

"We just think Dr. Dickerman hung the moon"

Before and after the surgery, Dick's wife, Mary, and his eight children — four boys and four girls — peppered Dr. Dickerman with questions.

Mary has a background in the medical field, and for her, a little knowledge was a dangerous thing. "I know that pancreatic cancer can be a stone cold killer and that people don't survive it." Dr. Dickerman kept her faith alive by sharing stories of patients who have survived for years.

"We can't say enough about Dr. Dickerman," Mary says. "From the minute we met him, he was so direct with us. Before and after the (Whipple procedure), he stayed as long as we needed him to and answered our questions. He is an amazing person. He told us exactly what his opinion and the prognosis was."

"Amazing" nursing care and comfortable, onsite hospital suites

Richard Juneau – Pancreatic Cancer Success Story Pancreatic cancer survivor and Whipple procedure
patient Richard Juneau, center, surrounded by his
eight children at the wedding of his youngest daughter

Aiding in Dick's recovery were the caring nurses at Methodist Dallas.

Dick experienced some nausea and postoperative pain after his epidural was removed, and the nurses were always responsive and reassuring.

"Methodist has amazing nursing care," Mary says. "The nurses were just so kind and they were very cognizant of the fact that it isn't just the patient, it's also the family. They were very good to us."

While Dick was in the hospital — for 21 days — Mary stayed conveniently close in one of the guest suites located on the fourth floor of the same facility. "What an amazing, wonderful situation," she says, since she did not wish to leave her husband's side.

"In a situation like ours, the family can be pretty terrified. We never left Dick alone; there was always a family member with him. The kids took the night shift and the nurses made up a bed for them so they would have a place to stay. All the nurses would answer our questions — however much time we needed — we didn't feel like a number," she says.

"We've talked about it many times — all those days and all the nurses who touched us in that time. They are just the kindest people, always laughing, always joking."

Returning home and reaching a milestone

Upon his discharge from the hospital, Dr. Dickerman told Dick and his family that he had about a 50 percent chance of long-term survival, but if he made it two years without a cancer recurrence, it was "whipped."

Dick completed chemotherapy and radiation treatment and there were "joyful moments" when his CAT scans every six months showed no signs of recurrence. Reaching his two-year milestone — the one Dr. Dickerman had noted as momentous — was a very happy time for Dick and his family.

The blessings of a life — extended and appreciated

This year, Dick celebrated six years of survival following his Whipple procedure. Since his surgery, his youngest daughter, Julie, has gotten married and three new grandchildren have arrived in his life, bringing his total to 12 grandkids.

In his recovery, Dick has become a beautiful example of a grateful survivor: he is a volunteer driver for the American Cancer Society, helping patients get to their treatments when they cannot drive themselves.

Reflections on physical — and spiritual — care

During Dick's diagnosis and treatment for pancreatic cancer, Mary kept a journal. Having recently reread it, she says, "You forget; time goes by and you forget what you felt in those moments. For anyone receiving a very serious diagnosis, even if the outcome is not what one hopes for — the outpouring of love and support from family and friends and from your church is truly amazing."

Dick is Catholic and the priest who visited him while he was in the hospital was very kind. Mary says, "I am a United Methodist and on my mother's side, my Methodist heritage goes back six generations. During our lengthy stay at Methodist Dallas, I thought with appreciation of all those who had gone before us and had been faithful with their generous donations to sustain the Methodist hospitals. We give, and then one day, we receive so much back in return.

"We think Methodist Dallas is wonderful. Dr. Dickerman is fabulous. We believe that God gave us a miracle. We don't know why God chose us, but that's what we believe."

Mary says, "Dick is a Cajun from Louisiana, loves to fish, and is so grateful for each day. They're truly a gift from God."

Dick's sentiments are simpler, but no less important. "It's good to be here — still fishing and enjoying the fishing," he says.

Contact the Pancreatic Cancer Program at Methodist Dallas

For more information about pancreatic cancer treatment options and pancreatic cancer resources at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, call Nikisha Smith at 214-947-1766.