The Latest From Gilda’s

Life is for living… even when you’re living with cancer.

October 28, 2016

The Ashcroft family found the needed support of people who really understand what it’s like to deal with cancer. Here is their story as shared by Anna and Steve.


Steve

Waiting alone for my initial CT scan in a rainy hospital courtyard, I knew, without being told, that I was dying. My vision of watching my children grow up evaporated in
that instant.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but think about how happy I was, how lucky to have such beautiful experiences and relationships, and how resolved I was to treasure the time I have left.

But life quickly became a tangled web of week-in, week-out chemotherapy and a complicated balancing act of symptom and side-effect management. When I emerged on the other side of the initial weeks of treatment, it was with a renewed will to live as fully as possible and embrace my life with cancer.

But there was something missing — something I found in brief conversations with strangers I met while getting chemo or waiting to see my oncologist. Those moments in which I felt I was really understood were fleeting — until I attended my first Gilda’s Club Living with Cancer Support Group. There I found the power of shared experience … the power of a community that supports and sustains.

Today, I kiss the ones I love and soak in the sounds of the life I am living. As Anna and I tell others, Gilda’s Club gave us back our lives. Please help Gilda’s Club do the same for others. Give generously today.

Anna

Steve and I have a large and close group of friends — all of us have been looking forward to raising our kids together, planning our futures. Now everything has changed.

Our nightmare began when Alice was born six weeks early via an emergency C-section. During our nine-day hospital stay, Steve was unusually tired. We chalked it up to worry about Alice and the demands of caring for Henry alone. But Steve’s tiredness didn’t go away — and just 20 days after Alice was born, he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Three days later, Alice was back in the hospital with viral meningitis. I was racing back and forth between the hospital and home, where Steve was barely able to get out of bed. By the time we went to his first oncology appointment, I was running on three hours of sleep a night. All of it was just … too much.

One diagnosis with ripples felt by all

I felt completely lost. I knew there were resources, but I didn’t have the time or energy to figure out what they were. There’s no playbook for cancer.

The diagnosis was really scary for our entire circle of family and friends. Everyone wanted to help — and they did whatever they could. But I know now that what we desperately needed was the support of people who really understood what it was like to deal with cancer. We found that at Gilda’s Club.

Crossing the threshold

When our oncology social worker told us about Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, I didn’t want to go. Just the thought of driving across town to the Clubhouse was more than I could imagine. But on a particularly bad day I realized I just couldn’t manage things anymore. That’s when I strapped Alice into her car seat and drove to Gilda’s Club.

As I walked through the signature red door, I broke down crying. Thank goodness for Program Director Ali DeCamillis. She helped me figure out what our family needed most.

Sustained by the community

Today, Steve, Henry, Alice and I are Thursday night Clubhouse regulars: Steve attends the Living with Cancer Support Group, I attend the Friends, Family and Caregivers Group, and the kids hang out in Noogieland.® The fact that the whole family can come here together is huge — we even bring dinner.

Also huge is that all Gilda’s Club services are free. If they weren’t, we couldn’t afford to be here. We’ve lost Steve’s income and are facing huge medical costs. We’re also facing a difficult and uncertain future.

But what is certain is that we now have a lifeboat. Whenever something new comes up with Steve’s treatment, the first place we go for help and answers is Gilda’s Club. I know my thoughts, worries, joys and concerns will be understood and taken seriously. I know I can explore all my feelings until I’m satisfied and ready to face another day. Gilda’s Club members hold me in their hearts, just as I hold them in mine. These relationships
keep me afloat.

Were it not for Gilda’s Club’s easy access and vast services, I can say with certainty this past year would have been filled with even more turbulence and stress. I am a better parent and caregiver because of Gilda’s Club. And I’m so thankful it’s there for us. It’s truly been a lifesaver.

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