Stories of Hope
March 7, 2012
I was 42-years old with two boys, ages eight and three, living in Dallas and working for a venture capital firm in California when I was diagnosed with colon cancer. For the next nine months my life was all about surgery and chemotherapy—talk about a career change.
People treat you differently when they find out you have cancer and I quickly realized that I needed an outlet to help me get through what was turning my children’s and my world upside down. I tried several support groups and found out that a meeting once every other week in the “church basement” or once a month in some hospital or clinic listening to people’s cancer woes just wasn’t quite working for me.
A friend told me about Gilda’s Club North Texas, and that I could drop in almost anytime I wanted or needed to. I made an appointment with a counselor and took the 35-mile trek into downtown Dallas. The first thing that hit me when I first walked through the Gilda’s clubhouse door was that it didn’t have that clinical smell, nor did I have that feeling that it was even an environment about cancer.
I was met by this radiant counselor and we sat down in this private “living room” and she asked me why I was there and what is it that I wanted to do my response was… gee… I don’t know. Her response was…. we can handle that. So over the next several months I experienced things like my youngest son playing in Noogieland and coming up to me and asking me what was wrong with another little boy in there. I told him to go and ask him. He returned to me and said oh, he has cancer too, we’re going to go play now. I was so thankful that he wasn’t afraid of cancer anymore.
The Dallas clubhouse had a great activity room and people really got involved. Some special guests of the club were there playing music one day and gave me the opportunity to play genuine African drums. My friend John, who I had met there, convinced me to try the drums, said it would be fun, and it truly was. That was the last time I saw John laughing and smiling. He said his goodbyes to all of us that night. He passed a week later.
I met other great people like Krista, a beautiful, bald 16 year old girl, who I sat next to in the studio kitchen nutrition class. We joked around and learned about foods that were high in antioxidants. I had never heard of antioxidants that could help me fight my cancer. When I was at Gilda’s Club I wasn’t preoccupied with cancer my days were better… positive and I wasn’t “special” there.
Three years ago I moved to Minneapolis. I was in town about a month when I went to look up the local Gilda’s Club and thought I would stop in. Low and behold there wasn’t one. A few weeks later I joined the effort to bring a Gilda’s Club to the Twin Cities. Even now, cancer free, Gilda’s Club is a part of my life—I am a volunteer because I know and understand how important this organization is to a community.