Here’s a member’s story from Gilda’s Club Madison

To show you what we are striving to do in New Hampshire:

My name is Kim. I’m 49 years old, a mother, wife, friend, and 6-year cancer survivor. I’m writing to share how Gilda’s Club Madison helped me pursue my cancer path on my terms with laughter and fun.

My family and I aren’t the sort to wallow when dealing with tough stuff. For instance, when I was going through my breast cancer treatment and reconstruction surgery, my friends and family threw me a Bye-Bye Boobies Party, which included a cake. The night ended with my 89-year-old grandfather saying, “Good luck with your remodeling!” Gilda’s Club met me where I was, laughter and all.

One of the best things my family learned at Gilda’s was that there are real health benefits from laughing. Laughter Club is open to the public and I think everyone should try it. I became a member because I had so many questions about cancer and treatment. I wanted support from others that had already gone through it. I’m still a member because I want to share the experiences I went through and pay it forward to new members. A lot of people don’t realize that ongoing support is important! Gilda’s offered support not only for me, but my whole family.

On Tuesday evenings my then 3-year-old and I would go to the family support night. We’d eat a great volunteer-made dinner, and then go to our own support groups. My group was for men and women dealing with any kind of cancer. My son would learn about cancer with other kids. Attending those groups helped us have some really important conversations. Gilda’s isn’t just about support groups. I learned how to knit and crochet, which helped me pass the time after surgery and in waiting rooms. I also learned how to cook healthier, which my family really likes. My favorite skill, which I still use, is relaxation and guided imagery. I use it daily!

Why do I choose to tell my story? Not because I’m a great writer or because I like speaking in front of people. Sharing my story has been therapeutic for me and it’s my hope others will learn from my experiences. Most of all, I want to make sure people know they don’t have to go through cancer alone! Gilda’s is my safe place, my home away from home – and it can be yours, too, if you need them.

Why Gilda’s Club Here?

Over thirty years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was fortunate that I discovered it at an early stage, but it was still a very difficult experience. When I was 16, I watched my father die from cancer. I still remember the sound of the floorboards creaking at night because he was in too much pain to sleep. I was terrified that I would be in the same situation.

I kept thinking that there must be a way to help people through this experience, but there were no suitable support groups where I was living at the time. Years later when I was living in Madison, Wisconsin a friend who had recently gone through cancer told me about visiting a Gilda’s Club in another city. When she told me what it was like, I knew that was the answer! We formed the founding group and started Gilda’s Club Madison. (That’s their clubhouse in the picture.)

When I moved to Laconia, New Hampshire, I was dismayed to find not only a lack of a Club here in the Lakes Region, but in the whole of New England. I wanted to start another Gilda’s Club here, but I was concerned that the community is too small to fund it.

When Gilda’s Club Madison had their 10th year anniversary, I went back for the celebration. All day people I didn’t even know kept thanking me for starting that club because it did so much for them and their families. The Club brings smiles to the faces of people who are touched by cancer. It brings a place of comfort, support, education and relaxation outside of a hospital or clinical environment. It’s a haven for those whose lives have been impacted by cancer.

On the plane ride home I couldn’t stop thinking that we have to find a way to make it happen in New Hampshire. I’m so lucky to have found other people who agree and are working with me to make this dream a reality.

Won’t you join us? Tell us why you would like to have a Gilda’s Club in Central New Hampshire! Pat

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