“It’s always something”………spoken with so much wisdom by Roseann Roseanna Dana, the character created by the brilliant comedienne Gilda Radner. For those of you too young to remember, just get hold of some old recordings of Saturday Night Live. Radner was among the original cast of the NBC hit, that still airs to this day.
Gilda began her hard battle with cancer in 1985 and three years later succumbed to cancer. Radner has left behind a legacy of comfort, hope and healing to not only the victims of today, but their families, friends, and caregivers, as well.
The building you see, when driving down Highway 111, in Cathedral City with the bright red door, is not the Elizabeth Arden Day Spa, but the home of Gilda’s Club, a place for patients, survivors, families and anyone whose life has been touched by cancer.
Support groups for the newly diagnosed and those living with cancer, whether still in treatment or recovering, are led by facilitators specially trained for the assignment. But it is the group participants who are the biggest contributors to the healing of each other. Cancer patients support each other by sharing experiences, information, recipes for cancer friendly dishes, and other sources of information. With all this intimate sharing, group members become family. It is not unusual for one member to help in the caring for another comrade. Meals are supplied by group members for someone recovering from surgery. Often group participants volunteer to do some household task for a recuperating fellow member……not to mention rides being provided to Los Angeles, Loma Linda, and City of Hope, when a patient attending one of those facilities is in a bind and needs transportation.
Many participants live in the desert far from any family members and Gilda’s surrogate family is there to provide comfort and support so badly needed by those out here living on their own.
The clubhouse contains a library with books and recordings of informational value, as well as entertainment. Members are free to check out any materials they choose. It is pretty much on the honor system.
There is a fully equipped kitchen and snacks are there for the hungry. Lunch is provided and served by volunteers. Luncheons are held on Wednesdays after the group meetings, in a large community room, which is also used for parties, informational events, movies, and various exercise classes, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, and dance. The room is large enough to accommodate a small band and is equipped with many tables and chairs for large parties.
And then there is Noogieland—a play area for young children who has a parent with cancer. Nothing has been forgotten when it comes to providing for the needs of the community of cancer patients.
The staff and volunteers are cheerful and friendly. The atmosphere at Gilda’s is lively and full of laughter. Yes tears are shed from time to time, but gaiety is more the norm. After all, this place was founded in the memory of one of the funniest ladies of the 20th Century.
An elderly woman, whose daughter was a friend of Radner’s and had cancer at the same time as Gilda, tells a funny story at one of the comedy nights held Gilda’s Club. It seems the two women who had similar surgeries, were shopping in an upscale boutique in Beverly Hills. As they walked out of the store, the alarm went off, as it would if someone had left the store with unpaid merchandise. The two women realized there was some metal object implanted in them as a part of their surgical procedures. They thought it was terribly funny that they were capable of setting off the alarm and decided to make an afternoon of shopping and setting off alarms all over town.
In Gilda’s book, “It’s Always Something,” she tells of her journey through cancer and repeatedly mentions the help she received at The Wellness Center in Santa Monica…………….., which has been a model for Gilda’s club.
Research shows that breast cancer victims, who belong to a support group, have a reduction in psychological distress and pain, as well as an improvement in the quality of life. The patients in support groups spend less time and energy focusing on themselves and more on others.
For more info go to www.gildasclubdesertcities.org or call 760-770-5678.