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Two Daniels and a Mission that Matters

By: Jim Corum, Board Chair

As a long-time member of Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee’s Board of Directors – and, as of January 1, as our new Board Chair – I’m often asked, “why Gilda’s Club.” People want to know what brought me to the organization and why I’m committed to sharing my time, energy and resources here. The answer is two-fold.

Like so many of us, I have a cancer story. Mine is a story of two Daniels. Daniel Green is my youngest cousin and was diagnosed with neuroblastoma within his first year of life. After chemo, losing a kidney as a result of chemo, and a clinical trial at St. Jude’s, he was declared cancer free. In December 2017, our entire family gathered in Memphis to cheer Daniel on as he ran a St. Jude’s marathon celebrating 20 years free from cancer.

The other Daniel, Daniel Smith, was a friend of mine from church. We played tennis weekly for a little exercise, but more so as a way to catch-up on life. Daniel and I were yin and yang. He was a single, talented musician, who was looking to balance writing music with his desire to pursue nursing as an avenue to help others. While technically younger, I was the old married guy who had always had a clear career path. Our world was shocked when he learned there were cancer cells on his tongue. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate that his decision on surgery would impact his ability to speak and sing… Ultimately, the cancer metastasized throughout his body and we lost him within a year. While truly a service of worship and love, his memorial was one of saddest days in my life.

My youngest son’s middle name is Daniel in tribute to the two Daniels whose perseverance in the face of adversity impacted me at an early age.

In addition to the two Daniels, I chose Gilda’s Club (and continue to choose Gilda’s Club), because I believe in the mission: to ensure all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. Simply stated, Gilda’s Club is people helping people.

Professionally, I have spent my whole career on the business side of healthcare. While our oncology clinicians and scientists have made significant discoveries over the past few years – and the pace is accelerating through treatment protocols at the genomic level known as personalized medicine – traditional oncology clinic and hospital systems are limited in the support they can provide. This is where organizations like Gilda’s Club come in. And, increasingly, research is validating what those of us at Gilda’s already know: people who have a strong support community that provides trustworthy education experiences enjoy better quality of life and improved health outcomes.

As the incoming Board Chair, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the call to sustain and grow Gilda’s impact throughout Middle Tennessee, especially when you consider the legacy of caring that surrounds the organization. However, I am confident that in utilizing the gifts and talents of those who have been loyal to Gilda’s over the past 20 years – and the new friends we are making almost daily – we will rise up to meet the ever-growing demand. CEO Harriet Schiftan says it best: we need your “fuel” to help us accomplish such an important mission. For some, this could mean a commitment to financial giving. For others, this could mean sharing your time and talents through volunteerism. In any regard, we need your help! You can learn more about ways to help us help our community here.

Happy new year.