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Some Reflections on 22 Years

By Felice Apolinsky, LCSW
Program Director

As I sit to write this, I am grieving the recent death of my precious father and beginning to process the final two weeks of his life, which I was thankfully able to spend alongside him in the hospital. Witnessing his incredibly gentle release, I am heartbroken while also filled with gratitude. In many ways, that mirrors my experience over the past 22 years as the Program Director of Gilda’s Club. Gratitude and heartbreak…heartbreak and gratitude.

Just weeks ago, I found a copy of the resume and cover letter I sent to Sandy Towers, our Founder, dated August 9, 1997. Okay, truthfully it was a packet, 14 pages long…I really wanted the job! As I reread my cover letter, besides noticing far too many exclamation points, I was amazed that I feel the exact same way now, all these years later. Here is an excerpt:

“I am not certain that I can adequately express how deeply I feel about being a part of Gilda’s Club. From the very moment I heard Gilda’s Club was potentially coming to Nashville, I knew it was a place where I would want to be involved both personally and professionally. I simply cannot imagine anything more worthwhile. My view of the mission of Gilda’s Club is of a community support system/network that helps people live with cancer, rather than focusing completely on dying from cancer. To help the person with cancer feel accepted, loved, nurtured, supported, encouraged, and empowered through the confusing, chaotic and devastating process. To also support those people in their lives who are desperately trying to do, and to say, all the “right” things. To give them a place of their own to be heard and supported by the true experts, those who are also experiencing the same difficult balancing act of helping, but not helping too much…supporting yet empowering. Integrating all the program components to form a community that promotes emotional healing through shared learning, socialization and laughter.”

I am so incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished over my 22-year tenure. The exceptional staff team we have built, the sensational clinicians who deliver the Program and facilitate our groups, the dedicated and loyal volunteers who add so much to the community by sharing their time and talents, the stellar reputation we have earned within the medical community, the solid and transparent stewardship of our donor dollars, and, most of all, the relationships we have cultivated and nurtured with our Gilda’s Club members – oftentimes spanning generations within families.

Goodbyes are rarely easy, but so very important. Thank you for allowing me into your lives, to be with you in heartbreak and in moments of gratitude. Sharing all of life’s moments, together. And Sandy Towers, thanks for hiring that very enthusiastic social worker… You forever changed and enriched my life!