An Open Letter from Ashley
My mother, Anita, fought cancer most of my life. It wasn’t just one type of cancer, it was several – breast, bone, brain and lung cancer. Treatments included chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy, and a bone marrow transplant.
I was in first grade when she was first diagnosed with cancer, and 14 when she was diagnosed for a third time. Our hearts were broken. We knew our lives would be turned upside down again and didn’t know where to turn to for the emotional support that we both so desperately needed. My father had passed away when I was eight, money was tight, and my mom was a single working mother with mounting medical bills.
When we found Gilda’s Club it changed our lives. Getting this life changing support, all free of charge, was utterly essential to our family.
Cancer may define my family tree, but thanks to Gilda’s Club the pain of loss no longer defines me.
The Clubhouse became our second home. My mom’s support group met on Wednesday nights, and my teen group on Saturday mornings. Our support groups taught us to communicate with each other honestly about our fears and hopes for the future. On Saturday afternoons, we volunteered in Noogieland, baked treats in the kitchen, or decorated for the next big event. We were part of the community.
I know that being a member empowered my mom to keep fighting when every doctor told her that it was unlikely she would live to see me graduate from middle school or high school. She found courage within herself that came from the courage she found in her group.
When I was 19, she was diagnosed for the last time and the cancer took her quickly. Within two weeks she was gone. Her friends from Gilda’s Club stood by me as we all said goodbye.
As the years passed, I came back to Gilda’s Club and joined their Associate Board, a group of incredible young professionals all believing in the work of Gilda’s Club. I joined to honor my mother’s commitment to volunteerism and to give back to the organization that gave us so much. I know first-hand how life changing Gilda’s Club can be for cancer patients and their families to not just survive … but thrive in their new normal. Gilda’s Club gave us a way to feel empowered.
My mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, great aunt, uncle, and brother all fought cancer. Only my brother survived. Cancer may define my family tree, but thanks to Gilda’s Club the pain of loss no longer defines me.
Please help me support this community that reaches over 20,000 cancer patients and their families each year – a family just like mine and maybe a family just like yours. You can make a donation here. A gift of any size would be greatly appreciated.
You can help create a better future for everyone living with cancer – because no one should face cancer alone.