Share this Article:


She Was Defined By Relentless Optimism, Inspiration and Compassion

Editor’s Note:
It is with deep sadness to announce that Dr. Jill Pechacek passed away in January, 2018 after a 40-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Jill will be cherished forever.

Following Was Her Story:

Originally Written By Debra Gelbart
November 2019

Jill was a family medicine physician with enormous compassion for her patients. In part because she was a multiple cancer warrior. Dr. Jill survived a bout with ovarian cancer when she was just 25. About 21 years later she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September, 2014.

Life Interrupted, But Not Slowed

Her determination to make life better was emblematic of Dr. Jill’s ebulliently positive outlook, despite facing enough challenges for multiple lifetimes. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, just before her last semester of medical school.

“That was my first time being a patient with a serious condition,” she said during an interview in 2017. She said she didn’t have any doubt she was going to defeat ovarian cancer. She did just that and went on to have three children: sons Hawk and Brooks and daughter Hope, who are now teenagers.

Eight years after the birth of her youngest child Hope, Dr. Jill never thought she’d soon be experiencing another bout of cancer. But in September of 2014, pain in her stomach wouldn’t let up. She thought it was either an ulcer or pancreatitis, but received the devastating news that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to her liver.

This time it was tougher for her to stay positive. “My survival isn’t about just me, it’s about my kids,” she said.

Never Giving In

With boundless determination, she traveled to six different cancer-care institutions around the country in search of optimal treatments, though she was already receiving regular infusions of Folfirinox, a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs.“Those were really hard, dark days,” she said, “all consults estimated I had only about six months to live.”

After researching clinical research trials, Dr. Jill found Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, a pioneer in the development of targeted therapies for the treatment of cancer at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix and the HonorHealth Research Institute in Scottsdale.“When I first met him, one of the leading cancer researchers in the world, I noticed that he has the kindest face and treats you as if you were his only patient in the world.” she said.

She flew to Arizona about every eight weeks to be seen by Dr. Von Hoff and by Dr. Erkut Borazanci, an oncologist and clinical investigator at HonorHealth Research Institute.

Life Lessons Shared With Others

What she gleaned from a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, she said, “you can’t hold resentment in your heart. So many amazing things come out of challenging times, and life is all about dee3pening relationships and all of the new people that God brings into your life.

She has undergone separate surgeries to have her pancreas removed and two-thirds of her liver removed. Her scan in August 2017 showed no evidence of the disease, but because of significant side effects from having chemotherapy every week for almost three years, she isn’t practicing medicine anymore.

Instead, she became a motivational speaker to remind people of what’s truly important in life: having faith in God and knowing the power of prayer; that noting tastes better than life” and each day is a gift; the restorative and healing impact of “being around the people you love and the people who love, support and encourage you”; and the value of investing in your health.

Dr.Jill knows that her cancer could return, and she is prepared for that. “I’m not just on Plan B, I’m on Plan H by now,” she says lightheartedly. ” I tell my kids it’s a good thing there are 26 letters in the alphabet.”

Having spoken at the 2017 Annual Seena Magowitz Foundation Golf Classic in 2017, she felt guided by wisdom from several sources, including Verse 31:25 from the Book of Proverbs that says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” She remained determined “to do whatever it takes to be here because I’m extremely motivated and confident in my future.” She urged those in her audience to “let your faith be bigger than your fear” and underscored that “God has a plan for you.”

The effervescent Dr. Jill Pechacek passed away about 6 months later in January of 2018. She will always remain an inspirational and cherished legacy.

Send this to a friend