I had never been to our Gilda Comes To You NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County (KC) partner site before. As a staff member, I knew the boilerplate for the program – support groups, healthy lifestyle workshops & educational lectures for any cancer patient receiving treatment at the hospital as well as Gilda’s Club NYC (GCNYC) members. What I didn’t know was that a strong community had developed among program participants.
Perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise given that “community” is a fundamental component of the Gilda’s Club program. Maybe it’s because its location at a hospital made me expect something different. However, when I attended the Winter Wonderland holiday celebration held in December, it was anything but. In fact, it was like being in another room at our Clubhouse in the West Village. The members even self-dubbed themselves the Red Door Society.
Almost everyone in attendance that day was wearing red, which was pre-planned by the members. Cheerful conversations and banter filled the room while everyone enjoyed lunch together. Members sang along with carolers who put us all in the holiday spirit. Oncology and radiation nurses from the hospital were also invited and it was a delight to see the relationship between the members and the hospital staff. Overall, I had a great time.
New York City is a really big place. With about 8.5 million people spread across 302 sq.mi. (yes, I googled this), no two neighborhoods are alike. I myself, live in the suburbs of the Bronx and it’s definitely no West Village, Manhattan. Understanding this, I believe a major part of what made the King’s County group so strong is that they were able to come together though this common bond of cancer, right in the neighborhood where they live.
KC is located in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn. It is about an hour long subway ride from the Clubhouse. On the 4th floor of Building C, there is a corridor that will take you to a Red Door, just like the one at the Clubhouse, which leads you to a group room dedicated to Gilda’s Club programming.
In early 2007, GCNYC developed a model for growth based on community satellite programs called Gilda Comes To You, in order to expand our support community throughout New York City. KC opened their Cancer Care Center in 2010 to bring together their cancer care program under one roof which was previously spread out across multiple locations.
In 2012, Gilda’s Club NYC officially partnered with KC to bring its program of support to cancer patients at the hospital. Our Patient Navigator at the hospital provides cancer patients with information about our on-site programming and the benefits of psychosocial cancer support. As a result of this program’s success, we were pleased to honor KC with the Gilda’s Club Community Partner Award at our 2017 Annual Benefit Gala.
Seeing the impact of our program in Brooklyn gave new meaning to the Gilda Comes To You program to me. There’s a difference between knowing and understanding something and I’m happy to say that I understand the importance of having this program in the underserved neighborhoods where people live and are receiving treatment.
Each year over 39,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed with cancer – a staggering number. Our goal would be to reach everyone in need of support, but for now, Gilda Comes To You is a step in the right direction.