“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” — Gilda Radner
For thirteen years, I have been fortunate to be a part of the community at Gilda’s Club Nashville, first as a social work intern and now as a member of the full time program staff.
Gilda’s Club Nashville is an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community and opened its doors on August 3, 1998. Our mission is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community.
Our namesake, Gilda Radner, was one of the original cast members of “Saturday Night Live.” Laughter and love were central themes of Gilda’s career and life, including in her marriage to actor and comedian Gene Wilder, the original Willy Wonka.
When Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986 she quickly realized the importance of emotional and social support when dealing with her cancer. After attending the Wellness Community in Southern California, Gilda called for such places of participation, education, hope and friendship to be made available to men, women and children with any type of cancer and their families and friends. After her passing in May 1989 her husband, Gene Wilder, and Joanna Bull (Gilda’s psychotherapist) founded the flagship Gilda’s Club in New York City.
In July 2009, Gilda’s Club Worldwide and The Wellness Community joined forces to become the Cancer Support Community. CSC and Gilda’s Club affiliates provide essential, but often overlooked, services including support groups, counseling, education and healthy lifestyle programs through a network of more than 50 local affiliates and 100 satellite locations, as well as online resources, and all of this is provided completely free of charge.
Megan Ingram Forshey with the signature Gilda’s Club red door.
I believe whole-heartedly that what happens at Gilda’s Club Nashville and Cancer Support Community affiliates across the country makes a difference in people’s lives(and not just because I happen to work there).
I get to witness it first hand on a daily basis. I see people cry together and hold onto each other when news is tough, and I hear laughter so loud that I have to shut my office door to get any work done at all. It’s honest and full speed and sometimes gut-wrenching. It’s life. It’s learning how to live with cancer. It’s giving to and receiving back from the collective wisdom in the room. The true spirit of the place is made up of lives being lived and shared. They are lives that have been affected by cancer but not ones that are defined by it. They are defined by love and laughter and hope and faith, and in moments shared with family and friends. Giggles of babies and grandbabies, kisses good morning, family vacations, late night drives with best friends, bedtime stories, first days of school, graduations, parties, first loves, true loves, love of mamas and daddies, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters… that is what defines these lives. And I know that those lives, that abundance of love and laughter, are a legacy worthy of our namesake.
For more information about Gilda’s Club Nashville visit http://www.gildasclubnashville.org/.
To find a Gilda’s Club or Cancer Support Community in your area visit http://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/.