When I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 1997, Middle Tennessee didn’t have a Gilda’s Club, but I sure could have used one.
My kids were in middle and high school at the time, and there was no real support available for any of us. My family wanted to help me – and each other – but they didn’t know how. I remember meeting this woman once, who was also dealing with cancer. She used an analogy to describe what she was going through, and it really resonated with me: She said it was like being stranded on an island with your loved ones rowing a boat around the island again and again, not really knowing what to do. THIS WAS MY FAMILY! This was exactly how we felt!
Fast forward about 20 years. My daughter Keri was grown and working at Lowe’s Vanderbilt in Nashville when she decided to volunteer her time with a local cancer support organization: Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee. She invited me to get involved, too, and I said “yes.” I’ve been volunteering with Gilda’s Club ever since.
I facilitate art classes, because I think it’s important for people to have a space where they can express themselves creatively and give and receive support. Everyone has something to share. The best part is the relief I see on the faces of the men, women and children who come to Gilda’s Club. The relief that comes when you find community – when you’re surrounded by others who know what you’re going through. And the fact that it’s all available for those with cancer AND their family and friends is amazing.