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Cancer in the Time of COVID-19

It’s springtime and we are supposed to be feeling the rhythm of the season, the rhythm of the school year, the rhythm of the work-week-to-weekend…the rhythm of “life as usual.” But all of that has been suspended for now. The rules as we knew them have changed. Our societal guideposts have been moved and the uncertainty created by COVID-19 has left us all feeling a little untethered and a lot unsure. Yet, each day, we do our best to create some rhythm on which we can rely. 

At Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee, our entire staff is working hard to maintain the rhythm of our cancer support program for our members. We hear your gratitude and thanks that we have implemented video conference technology to allow support groups and networking groups to continue to meet regularly. For those of you who are too ill, too far away, or who have ceased driving altogether, we are thrilled that our virtual gatherings are allowing you to reconnect with your Gilda’s Club community in a way that our in-person, in-clubhouse meetings did not. Hearing your stories of what it felt like the first time you saw each other’s faces from your devices – from your homes – brought us pure joy. 

Now, four weeks into our virtual cancer support program – with new offerings on our calendar each week – many are “Zoom weary”. We understand it can be hard to find a laptop or tablet when spouses need them for work and children need them for school. It can be challenging to find a quiet spot in the house, where you can hear your fellow group members and offer them needed privacy to share their fears and concerns with just you. We know you miss showing up for each other in person. You miss sharing the calm safe space of a group room. You miss the hugs. We get it. We miss it, too. 

Beyond Zoom fatigue, we know the cancer experience can bring uncertainty, fear, worry, anxiety, and isolation – feelings that are amplified with the additional risks presented with COVID-19. We have heard that while many of you cherish the additional time with your families, it can be difficult to find much–needed rest, quiet, and time to process your feelings. And for those of you living alone with a cancer diagnosis, this live-saving isolation presents a number of new challenges, like who will do the grocery shopping?  

Some of you are worried and scared about going to the hospital for treatments, scans, or appointments. So many are missing the social aspects of daily life that brought love, levity, help, and distraction into your life and bolstered your loved ones.  

We know you are strengthened by connecting with other Gilda’s Club members – and we are grateful for the community partners and individual donors whose support make our program possible. Through their generosity, we will continue to bring you support groups, self-care classes, and educational programs. We hope you will continue to participate and enjoy these new ways to engage, learn, and find support. We are here with you and for you.  

Sending Gilda’s Club hugs, 

Harriet Schiftan, MSW, MAJCS, President and CEO

Felice Apolinsky, LCSW, Program Director