On June 20, 2012 – I received a phone call from my gastroenterologist and was shocked to learn that I had a tumor in my esophagus. When my husband Anthony, my daughter and I met with the oncologist, she explained the best treatment to approach my type of cancer. We shed a lot of tears that day. After meeting with the oncologist, radiation and chemotherapy doctors, I found it difficult to wrap my mind around the entirety of my diagnosis. I began my own personal journey of processing this information and found it was extremely overwhelming. Once the treatment plan was determined, I began the first round of 28 radiation treatments and 6 rounds of chemotherapy.
After completing this treatment, they found the tumor had decreased in size. However, it was still recommended that I have a surgical procedure called an esophagectomy. When my husband and I attended a follow-up appointment with my oncologist, my husband asked if there was anyone we could talk to prior to the surgery. She suggested we visit Gilda’s Club Nashville. We called and inquired about a support group for my type of cancer, and we were invited to attend a New Member Meeting. Afterwards, we were placed in the Head and Neck Cancer support group. My husband, our daughter and I attended our first meeting the day before my surgery. The group session was very comforting and I enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere. While listening to the group, I felt peaceful and calm. They wanted to hear from me so I told them my diagnosis and all about my treatment. I also mentioned that my surgery was scheduled for the very next morning. With this information revealed, it was as though we were in the room with “Gilda’s Angels”! They embraced all of us and offered many words of encouragement. We even shared some prayers. When we left the Clubhouse that night, I knew this was confirmation that I was ready for surgery. My surgery went well and after eight days in the hospital, I was able to go home. I had several questions about the feeding tube, swallowing issues, etc. – and was able to contact some members of my group for answers. This was huge!!
I couldn’t wait for the New Year to come so that we could go back to Gilda’s Club. Being a part of this group has been such a vital part of my physical, emotional and spiritual recovery. There have since been a couple of people who were close to me that have been diagnosed with cancer, and I have encouraged them to check into Gilda’s for support. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for this group and the staff at Gilda’s, my journey would not have been so successful. I love being a part of Gilda’s and look forward to seeing my group members every month. I wish we met more than once a month. It’s like a dose of “good medicine” full of all of the things needed to keep us going. My life still has a lot of trials dealing with my new normal, but as long as I know that I can look forward to going to Gilda’s or just being able to contact a group friend, I have faith and know that it is going to be alright. ~ Winona McGowan