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A Tough Cancer Artist Expanding Our Reach

At Gilda’s Club, one of our main goals is to always meet people where they are. Whether that be virtually in a support group or tracking down the perfect resource for a hard to solve problem, we aim to be there. As we open up our Clubhouse doors even wider, our program team has been diligently working on adding additional offerings to our current program calendar to reach even more people seeking support.

For example, over the last year, we have added three new support groups to the roster including: our LGBTQ+ Support Group, our Men’s Cancer Support Group, and our Spanish Speaking Cancer Support Group for Women.

In our Spring Gilda Gram, we highlighted the cookie boxes our Associate Board supported for Tough Friends Art Club. TFAC began in 2022 when we teamed up with Gilda’s Club Madison and 2X cancer survivor and artist, Chelsey Gomez (Ohyouresotough), to create a Young Adult (YA) art program with a reach across North America. The idea is simple, sign on to Zoom, create art, and connect with other young adults facing cancer.

We recently talked to Chelsey about her particular brand of cancer art and how it has impacted her and the YA cancer community. Chelsey’s art uses humor to challenge societal perceptions of cancer, especially in young people. Despite YA’s being an audience notoriously hard to connect with, her reach across social media platforms is well over 25,000 followers.

You work with many non-profits. How has it been teaming up with Gilda’s Club?

Teaming up with Gilda’s Club has been an incredible experience for me as an advocate and artist. Together, we’ve been able to amplify each others efforts and reach a wider audience, which has been amazing.

What’s really special about working with Gilda’s Club is that you provide me with the technical support, set-up, and resources that I don’t have access to on my own, and your expertise has been invaluable in making Tough Friends Art Club a success. I think it’s a great example of how we’re better together, and I feel really fortunate to be able to work with such an amazing organization.

Your following has grown massively in the last three years, in a time that was largely isolating for many, especially those with cancer. How do you think social media played an influence in connectivity with other Adolescents and Young Adults during the pandemic?

When I was undergoing my transplant during the COVID-19 shutdowns in Florida, it was a very scary time. However, the isolation I experienced was not new to me. I had already been living in isolation for two years prior due to my cancer diagnosis.

While the pandemic may have contributed to the growth of my online community, the need for connection among cancer patients existed long before it. Cancer is an isolating experience, and for a long time, people didn’t talk about the difficulties of the journey. The pandemic may have been a catalyst for more people to turn to social media and digital platforms to connect, but the need for a digital community in the cancer space has always been there and will continue to be.

How did Tough Friends Art Club get started? What was the inspiration behind the name?

Tough Friends Art Club started as an idea between my friend Marc Korobkin, AYA Coordinator and Outreach Assistant, at Gilda’s Club Madison and me. We wanted to create a space for AYAs from all over the country (and world) to come together through art. We spent a lot of time brainstorming and planning before finally launching last year. We were lucky to have Meghan Lamb, Director of Marketing, at Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee join us in the early stages, and her contribution has been truly wonderful. As the co-founder and host of the club, the name ‘Tough Friends’ felt like a natural progression from my own artist name, ‘Ohyouresotough.’ You may have seen some of my merchandise that features phrases like ‘Tough Girls Club’ and ‘Tough Friends.’

What do you think makes Tough Friends Art Club unique?

My favorite part of Tough Friends Art Club is the sense of community and connection it fosters. We have members from all over the country and even internationally, and it’s amazing to see YA cancer patients come together through art. Art has been a huge source of comfort and healing for me during my cancer journey, so I love that we can share that experience with others. And it’s not just about the art – we have a relaxed vibe full of laughter and camaraderie that makes everyone feel welcome.

What makes TFAC special, in my opinion, is that we’re not afraid to try new things and take risks. We’re not just following the same old art workshop formula – we’re creating something unique and meaningful for our community.

We say that there is something for everyone at our Midtown Clubhouse and we mean it. We want to be a refuge and a compassionate place to land. We hope you all will join us while we work to provide the best psychosocial cancer support program possible for our community.

Hi, I’m Chelsey!

I’m Chelsey Gomez, a 32-year-old Florida native, proud mom to a lovely daughter, and happily married to my best friend, Michael. In my late twenties, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – twice. However, I underwent a successful stem cell transplant in 2020, which has put me in remission since then. (Fingers crossed it stays that way!)

I am a professional artist known by the name ‘Ohyouresotough’ and the founder of my non-traditional cancer brand of the same name. ‘Ohyouresotough’ has been a part of my online identity for a long time, but it took on a new meaning after cancer entered my life. While recovering from a stem cell transplant, I turned to art as a way to process my cancer trauma. To my surprise, my art resonated with others who were also seeking connection, and a community of like-minded people began to form around it.

Find Chelsey on Instagram, Etsy, or her website!