Why I Ride: Jill Dunn, née Brunkhardt-Taylor
I’d never experienced cancer with anybody before. I mean, I knew a lot of people who had been diagnosed and been through treatment, but never somebody so close to me.
I’ve been working in what’s now the Corporate Affairs Department at Chevron for over 13 years. My husband was actually a firefighter in the Chevron Fire Department. I met Robert in 2006. We didn’t start dating until 2012. After that first date, we instantly fell in love and moved in together. We got engaged in October of 2017. He had battled colon cancer in 2010. He made a complete recovery and after five years of remission was declared cancer-free.
He had been having back pain, but he was in really good shape and had been working out with a trainer, and we thought he had just pulled a muscle. In early 2018, he started having pain in his abdomen as well. We decided to go to urgent care. After some tests, the doctor walked in and she said, “I’m really sorry to tell you, but you have pancreatic cancer.” I couldn’t believe it. Just because he’d been cancer-free for so long, and he was so healthy. To get this diagnosis was really hard.
When he started chemo, it was rough. It turned out the pancreatic cancer chemo they started him on, he was allergic to. By the time we started round three, he probably had lost 30 to 40 pounds. His body wasn’t recuperating as fast as it should have. They did a CT scan to see if anything was working to shrink the pancreatic cancer tumor. I was completely convinced with how sick he had been and the strong amount of chemo that he was getting… Well, I just had hope that the tumor would be shrinking. We did a fourth round of chemo. The doctor came in to say that, unfortunately, the pancreatic tumor had not gotten smaller but had only doubled in size and actually had metastasized to his liver. They pretty much told us that there was nothing else that they could do.
He wanted to make sure that we were married before he passed away, because we were expecting to have a whole lifetime together. So we got married in our backyard, with around 15 people. A couple of my friends from Chevron helped me put it together. The day that he passed, it was very peaceful, and I had my hand on his heart, and I was holding his hand, and he just peacefully went. In one way, I mean, it was just the hardest time of my life, but, on the other hand, I just, I felt a sense of release for him, because he had suffered so much and it had been so hard. I was so lucky to have so much support, not just from my friends and family, but also my Chevron family.
Robert taught me so much. I learned so much from him in the short six years that we were together. He really turned my life around. After he passed away, things started to happen that really showed who he was. Two weeks before Christmas at work I got called to the front, and there were flowers and a card. On the outside of the card, it said, “To my wife Jill.” And I lost it. It was a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Robert, with a hand-written card from him, telling me how much he loved me, that I was his queen and that he was watching over me. That was just the kind of man he was.
Chevron is so involved with the community, and my job is representing Chevron in the Beach Cities, so when we learned about Tour de Pier, it was just a perfect fit. It was so special for all of us to come together and ride in Robert’s memory, but also to help raise money for such an important cause. We upped our sponsorship to $10,000 and had two teams. The Tour de Pier was just a natural fit for us.
I definitely ride Tour de Pier in Robert’s memory and to keep his memory alive.