I wasn’t a “support group kind of person.” Not when I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2012. Not when I went through surgery, chemo, radiation, and recovery into 2013. And not when I was struggling with “life after cancer” in 2014. No, I wasn’t a support group kind of person – until I knew I just couldn’t do it on my own anymore.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s surreal and, in many ways, your life just goes on auto-pilot. You learn how to be sick. You learn how to keep your appointments. You learn how to take your pills. But you’re not in control…you just do it. And so I did. I did everything I was told to do and, despite having spectacular support from my wife and employees and friends, I was still having a hard time with the side effects of treatment.
And then there was the mental side of things. In addition to dealing with “chemo brain,” I was struggling to get my arms around what had happened…why it had happened to me.
Throughout my treatment, I saw fliers for Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee. And I knew of Gilda Radner from my teen years spent watching Saturday Night Live. But it wasn’t until 2014 that I reached out and got involved with Gilda’s Club’s Head and Neck Support Group.
At my first meeting, I shared that I was at a point in time where I either needed to see a psychiatrist or needed to be at Gilda’s Club. One of the guys in the room said, “Well, you’re in the right place.”
I had great support in my personal life, but no one else had been through exactly what I’d been through. At Gilda’s, there was a whole room full of people – smiling people – and they all understood. Sitting in that group environment – listening and sharing – it didn’t take me long to realize that this is where I needed to be. The group was – and is – all about helping people who are starting and moving through their cancer journey. And they taught me something I’ll always remember: All you have to worry about right now is today. Tomorrow is going to be better than today, and today is better than yesterday.