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Rescued rescuer gives thanks to community

Cancer free, Jay Piggot readies to return to NSR

As a 10-year North Shore Rescue veteran and as a B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic, he’s helped save hundreds of lives. Now Jay Piggot has himself been saved.

Piggot has been deemed cancer free after months of chemotherapy and an ambitious surgery to remove a rare form of cancer from his liver.

“It was just such an up-and-down rollercoaster for our family. You get good news one week. You get bad the next. Then you get more bad news. Then you get good news. You go up and down,” Piggot said. “I’m just super excited to focus on the life ahead.”

Upon learning of his illness last November, his North Shore Rescue teammates organized a crowdfunding campaign to assist his family while he went through the daunting treatment. It raised more than $100,000, with national news coverage and donations and messages of hope streaming in from around the world.

The campaign not only put the Piggot family on solid footing financially, it offered a base of emotional support, he said.

“It was everything to us. We were able to just not worry. We were able to just focus on the fight. I was in a fight for my life,” he said. “To know that we had the support behind us, it really changed the momentum of our journey and the fight that I had ahead of me.”

After some rehabilitation, Piggot is looking to return to work and the rescue team in the new year. In the brief period between his chemotherapy and his surgery, Piggot got to participate in three “quick, pick, grab” helicopter rescues in the North Shore Mountains. The feeling of being back in the long-line harness was something he compared to his wedding day or the birth of his sons, he said.

“After two rounds of chemotherapy, it was highly uplifting. Doing those rescues knowing I was going into surgery, knowing I was getting a chance to beat this, it was just awesome,” he said.

Also on the to-do list for Piggot and his wife, Denise Findlay, is finding a way to thank everyone. North Shore Rescue teammates, in the midst of their busiest season on record, did everything from walking Piggot’s dog to bringing the family meals and decorating their home for Christmas.

“(Denise) really wishes she could thank everyone individually. It just meant the world to us. There were people behind us, thinking, praying, sending positive vibes to us, just hoping for us. It was all just amazing,” he said.

Piggot now hopes to do some public speaking about his story, to encourage others going through the healthcare system to be their own advocates. When he was first diagnosed, his original doctors told him surgery would never be an option.

“To have an operation of this magnitude, we needed to find a surgeon who would take the case on,” he said. “He rebuilt my bile duct from scratch. He took out my gallbladder and he took out 85 per cent of liver in order to remove (all of the cancer) and give nothing a chance to come back. It was so exciting but terrifying at the exact same time. It was a huge surgery to undergo.”

And he hopes his close call can help inspire others to adopt a carpe diem attitude.

“It’s changed my perspective on things – how you look at your children, how you look at your spouse, how you look at your life. There’s so many things people just put aside and say ‘I’ll get to it’ – your fitness, your travelling, doing something special for yourself. Going through that you, learn to seize things so much faster. You want to do things,” he said.

Right at the top of his list is Mount Rainier in Washington state, not to rescue anyone but himself.