Layers, Learning and Leaning In

Ali DeCamillis June 22, 2020

We are living in times of transition, uncertainty and change. For many this can bring up fears of the unknown, anxiety, sadness, loss, anger, a lack of power and sense of control. And dare I say it? Perhaps…opportunity.

Within the last three months we have seen a pandemic shut down our social connections, communities and economy. Almost overnight, Gilda’s Club had to temporarily close our doors and move our program online. We sheltered at home and felt the physical and social disconnects due to quarantine. The killing of George Floyd swept a planet and its people into protest and demands for action. The video of his death brought to the surface systemic racial inequities and racism that our country can no longer deny, while parts of our city fell to ash and disarray.

Layers | And as if that wasn’t enough, when you factor into all of that living with cancer, caregiving, or loss it is a trifecta of complexity…so many layers. I have been listening to our members share and grapple with these layers as they try to make sense of their individual place within the collective story. As Bono said, “we’re not all in the same boat, but we are going through the same storm.” And for those impacted by cancer, the storm may feel even more ominous, isolating and far-reaching.

Learning | We are three months in to running groups and classes virtually. And we have learned a lot. We learned to take this challenge as an opportunity to be curious about how we can use technology to creatively address barriers and access to support. We are learning from our members what your fears, concerns and ideas are for re-entering into community, as well as the benefits that a virtual environment have offered many who found it previously difficult to attend clubhouse activities due to distance, side effects, and transportation.

Leaning In | We are leaning in. We are looking at our own organization to critically evaluate our culture and how we can ensure we are creating spaces that feel safe for all. We are exploring what we need to do as individuals and as an organization to create equity and ensure our program of support feels safe and accessible to anyone impacted by cancer regardless of race, age, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. This is a time to look inward, to unpeel the layers, to reflect critically, and then take action. We lean in, knowing there are no overnight solutions, yet believe that with commitment there can be change.

In our commitment to lean in, create equity and inclusion, and ensure safe spaces for individuals to gather, connect and learn, we have two programs to highlight:

Gilda PRIDE Social | Come join your Gilda’s community in celebrating PRIDE! We invite members who identify as LGBTQ to virtually connect in our first Gilda PRIDE Social on Saturday, June 27th from 10-11:30 with hosts Carly Kryzer and Victoria Larson. Even if we can’t gather in person, PRIDE is not cancelled! Showing each other support and building a strong community is exactly what PRIDE is all about.

Community Conversations: Navigating Cancer while Black | Join us for the first conversation in a series of educational roundtable dialogues where persons of color candidly share their experience and insights of being impacted by cancer as well as the role that race plays in navigating healthcare, self-advocacy, mental health, and experiencing health inequities. In this first roundtable, individuals from the African American community will share and discuss their perspectives. All are welcome to listen and learn more. You do not have to be a Gilda’s Club member to attend, please share with your communities of color.

And although I wish I could say we have peeled back all the layers and learned enough to safely open our doors, we need more time to figure out how to do this and ensure safety for our members, volunteers and staff. We need time to make intentional shifts to our calendar and program offerings and identify technology solutions that will allow us flexibility to provide our members options to engage in both in-clubhouse and virtual support. Through our next calendar cycle, July-September, we plan to continue programming virtually until our re-open task force and team feels we have what we need to make informed decisions and move forward with re-open plans.

As I finished writing this article, there was an intense storm outside. Thunder rumbled, lightening flashed and the rains torrentially poured down. When it was over, I walked outside to look over my house at a double rainbow. We can weather these storms together, as a community.  I not only hope for that, rather I believe it.

“Like a rainbow after rain, the joy will reveal itself after the sorrows in life”

Priyanka Dasari



Program Director | Gilda’s Club Twin Cities
Contact Ali at

Published as part of the June 2020 GildaGram Newsletter. Read more here: