Our physical stories were very different. I was diagnosed with Stage 0 DCIS breast cancer and was facing a mastectomy and reconstruction. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and had never had a surgery. Instead, she was living with her tumors and the side-effects of the drugs which kept them from growing. The drugs had disabling effects and she had to quit her job and live, every day, with the cancer and drugs inside her.
As we talked, I realized she was dealing with much more than I was facing and our conversation turned from the physical to the emotional. She told me how important support was and how she found it in a very special place – The Wellness Community. As she told me about the sense of community, sharing and programs offered there, I saw her entire demeanor lighten, as if someone had thrown her a lifeline.
Much later, with my surgeries behind me, I stumbled upon a book I had been wanting to read – Gilda Radner’s, “It’s Always Something.” Gilda originally intended the book to be a collection of comedic observations, but she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and the book took another turn. As I read her words about the Wellness Community and what it offered her, I remembered our lunch:
Amazingly, everything was free. There were group therapy sessions that met …Everything else was on a drop-in basis, including instruction in guided imagery and visualization and relaxation…There were group sessions for spouses or family members of cancer patients, nutrition and cooking discussions, lectures by doctors – oncologists and psychiatrists – workshops on anger management, potluck dinners and parties, therapy through painting, vocalizing, improvising – all techniques that would help in stress management and improve the quality of someone’s life. Gilda Radner’s “It’s Always Something”
After Gilda’s death, her husband and friends set out to fulfill her wish that “no one should face cancer alone,” and created the first Gilda’s Club program in New York City. Now, Gilda’s Club and The Wellness Community have officially merged under the name Cancer Support Community.
If you need support and are newly diagnosed or dealing with survivorship issues, please check out the Cancer Support Community. They offer online support and have over 50 local sites across the United States, Canada, Japan and Israel. All support services are still free! If you’ve received support from The Wellness/Cancer Support Community, I’d love to hear how it provided you a lifeline, like it did for Gilda and still does for the lovely woman who met me for lunch.
Survival > Existence,