Piper Gilles opens up about her frightening experience with ovarian cancer

Sylvia

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Piper's own video today: https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cr9CEdvA4NX/
The last 6 months have been a bit of a roller coaster! I’ll be sharing a bit more of my story tomorrow on World Ovarian Cancer day. I’m so incredibly thankful for all the people who supported me throughout all of this. I’ve always tried to be as authentic & real as possible on social media, but this was something I felt I needed to share when the timing was right. Life is full of ups and downs, all we can do is keep pushing forward ❤️❤️

Toronto Globe and Mail article by Rachel Brady (May 7, 2023)
Excerpts:
In the middle of their 11th and most successful year skating together, Gilles and skating partner Paul Poirier missed January’s national championships and February’s Four Continents tournament, announcing that she was recovering from an appendectomy.
But that was just a small piece of the story Gilles felt comfortable sharing at the time, part of a more complex and concerning medical situation. Now the 31-year-old world medalist and Olympian is ready to share her story, because she feels extremely lucky.
Gilles did have her appendix removed on Dec. 19, but that was an additional procedure to her scheduled surgery, added as a precaution. She was in hospital to have her left ovary removed, because weeks earlier doctors discovered that it contained a tumour some three centimetres long. A few weeks after its removal, a biopsy showed the tumour was cancerous.
“This isn’t a poor-me story,” Gilles tells The Globe and Mail in her first interview about it. “I don’t have cancer anymore. I’m good right now, but I just don’t want women to wait too long and find out it’s stage 4. I want them to listen to their bodies.”
Gilles began feeling unwell in late October during the Skate Canada International in Mississauga. She felt fatigue, plus an unusual abdominal pain that came and went throughout the weekend. She pushed it aside and caught up in the competition, which included the debut of their passionate free dance to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita. They skated to gold that weekend and looked poised for a big season.
Yet Gilles’s stomach pain, coming in waves on the left side of her body, persisted in the week after Skate Canada. Her coach and her husband each insisted she visit a doctor. Begrudgingly, she went to a walk-in clinic near her home in Toronto.
 
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Lanie

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Gosh, what a lot to go through.

Piper is so right here - “Many of us complain about painful periods, but we overlook it and no one actually says, ‘Maybe you should go get checked,’” Gilles says. “It’s not normal for women to experience that much pain. We just overlook this stuff, but I think it’s important to talk about it.”

We're often ignored about our pain or told it's normal by our doctors, but it ISN'T normal!
 

shutterbug

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Since Piper wont go there, I'll do it for her - that poor, poor girl. 😭 Doubly terrifying for her, given what happened to her mum. After 30+ years as a rehab case manager, I knew damn well there had to be more going with her surgery than just an appendectomy. So glad they caught it early!!!
 

AYS

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This makes their bronze medal win feel like the gold.
What a triumph for Piper and team to rally back after what an incredibly physically and mentally difficult time.
Both of their reactions in the K&C seemed like they felt that too. I thought at the time it was that they were so happy to be able to come back from the appendectomy, but now we know it was a much bigger picture. I'm so glad they caught it early, that she's doing well, and wish her continued good health.
 

Judy

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Ovarian cancer CAN and does strike very young. It also can be difficult to detect too.

unless she has a big family history with that awful gene (I knew a former coworker with it) .. there isn’t really a need for testing. Usually it’s an extensive history 😔.
 

Judy

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Ovarian cancer CAN and does strike very young. It also can be difficult to detect too.

unless she has a big family history with that awful gene (I knew a former coworker with it) .. there isn’t really a need for testing. Usually it’s an extensive history 😔.
I should say that mother, aunts, sisters etc. piper said her mom passed from cancer but not specifically ovarian.
 

Debbie S

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I should say that mother, aunts, sisters etc. piper said her mom passed from cancer but not specifically ovarian.
I thought I read at the time that her mom had brain cancer, but I could be wrong.

I'm glad Piper is doing OK and hope that she continues to do well. It's pretty amazing that she was able to come back and skate as well as she did at Worlds.
 

Sylvia

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I should say that mother, aunts, sisters etc. piper said her mom passed from cancer but not specifically ovarian.
Brain cancer (glioblastoma) - October 2018 article:
Bonnie was the only member of the large Gilles family who wasn't in Gangneung Arena to see Piper make her Olympic debut in February. She was in the late stages of cancer, a brain tumour having robbed her of her personality -- and the ability to speak and walk.
"Apparently my mom clapped," Gilles said with a sad smile. "Patti (Gottwein, Gilles' former coach) said she had one tear in her eye. She must have known.
"Those little things, they mean more than anything -- those little tiny moments."
By the Olympics, Bonnie had developed a second tumour. By the time Gilles and Poirier skated to sixth place at the world championships in Milan in March, she had a third.
Bonnie died May 28. She was 63.
 

Barbara Manatee

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unless she has a big family history with that awful gene (I knew a former coworker with it) .. there isn’t really a need for testing.
There are other mutations linked to ovarian cancer - my oncologist recommends a genetic workup to help guide treatment and monitoring. And if Piper intends to have children, she'll likely want to know if there are any heritable issues.
 

Trillian

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I should say that mother, aunts, sisters etc. piper said her mom passed from cancer but not specifically ovarian.

Brain cancer (glioblastoma) - October 2018 article:

BRCA mutations are linked to a variety of different cancers beyond just breast and ovarian cancer, but glioblastomas are apparently not one of them. Here’s one of the more reader-friendly links:

It’s very possible Piper does have a genetic predisposition for certain types of cancers, and it looks like there are a few studies out there indicating that glioblastoma prognosis might be negatively impacted by BRCA mutations, but most likely that wouldn’t have been the cause of her mom’s illness. It’s just a really unfortunate coincidence.

I’m so glad they caught the cancer so early and that she’s doing well now. I lost an aunt to ovarian cancer a few years ago and know how brutal it can be when diagnosed in later stages (my aunt only survived three and a half months after her diagnosis). I hope Piper’s story really will have an impact of encouraging more women to pay close attention to their reproductive health and take all symptoms seriously.
 

cgh_11

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I should say that mother, aunts, sisters etc. piper said her mom passed from cancer but not specifically ovarian.
I can't imagine what Piper has gone through. So grateful they caught it early and that she had symptoms. I hope she had access to genetic testing. Knowing you have a mutation is difficult but at least you have options for screening or preventative action. I have 2 genetic mutations including brca2. You don't have to have extensive cancer history in the family. In my case one was inherited from my Mom (an ovarian cancer survivor) and one started with me. There was only one other case of cancer in my immediate family history. Please note that men are also impacted by brca2.
 

Allskate

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I hope Piper’s story really will have an impact of encouraging more women to pay close attention to their reproductive health and take all symptoms seriously.
And really advocate for yourself. Only you know your body. If you feel like something is off, trust that. I had an ovarian tumor that fortunately turned out to be "benign." When I explained the symptoms to my doctor, she ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound technician told me that she saw a mass next to my ovary. But, when the doctor got the ultrasound results, she insisted I was fine. I wish I had pushed back or immediately obtained a second opinion. By the time I finally was diagnosed with a tumor and had the surgery, the tumor was quite big and the surgery was much more extensive than it needed to be with a much longer and tougher recovery and more permanent side effects. I was lucky it wasn't cancer because it probably would have spread in the interim.

Major kudos to Piper for sharing her story and raising awareness. I hope a lot of women take their symptoms more seriously as a result or get tested and monitored. I'm so glad they caught her cancer early.
 

Sylvia

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Canadian Press article by John Chidley-Hill (May 11):
"I feel so moved by all of the people that have reached out," said Gilles on Wednesday. "I've heard sad stories, I've had people thanking me for talking about it, I've heard great stories where they were detected early enough and had treatment and been cured.
"I've heard everything in between. All positive though, no negative."
Her concern heading into Sunday's announcement was that fans would see her as dishonest for withholding the full story because she prides herself on living her life as authentically as possible.
"Gosh, it's been so lovely and I just appreciate people being so open and supportive of me not saying the full truth yet," said Gilles, from Winnipeg where she is performing with Stars on Ice. "That was my biggest worry, that people would be like 'oh, she lied to us,' or whatever. But they've all been so supportive."
ETA a CP article by Nicole Ireland:
 

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