My name is Ute. It has been multiple years since the pandemic became a part of everyone’s life. We have all been touched by COVID-19. But for someone with cancer like me, feelings of fear, anxiety, and extreme isolation have become overwhelming. The act of simply leaving my home is concerning; attending medical appointments alone is very difficult. At the same time, the risk that those life-saving treatments could be cancelled or delayed is very worrying. Gilda’s Toronto has helped me manage those feelings of fear and anxiety.
I noticed a lump on my neck early in the pandemic and had to wait several months before I could see a doctor. Once I got my diagnosis and knew it was cancer, I was dazed. I felt so alone and did not think I could turn to anyone. I was reluctant to talk to my friends. I felt that unless you’d experienced cancer, you could not understand what it was like to find out.
A friend suggested I seek out a support group, something I would never have considered. I’m a private person, and I pride myself on always solving my own problems.
Then I called Gilda’s Toronto. I said, “I have cancer,” and started crying. I did not know what questions to ask or how to cope. The person I spoke to was calm and understanding; I knew Gilda’s Toronto was a safe place.
That was the beginning of my journey to find hope and reinvent myself. I became able to deal with things, to find structure in my life again. I signed up for an 8-week program. The group leader was exceptional and professional. The program helped me feel a sense of normalcy, and it was also a comfort to participate from my home.
At first, I was concerned about the other people in the group. If I brought my emotion into the session, I might make their lives more difficult. I also questioned if I had the strength to deal with somebody else’s pain. But the person who guided us was so sensitive and respectful that it felt very safe to share.
Three weeks after chemo, my hair fell out. It was overwhelming.
I had prepared by having a stylist cut my hair and make a wig in advance. The first time I was without a wig was at a Gilda’s Toronto session. It did not feel right to wear my wig there; it would have felt like I was in costume. I did not hide how cancer affected me when at a Gilda’s Toronto program.
I soon after discovered Gilda’s Toronto yoga classes, which gave me my first hour of breath. I’ve attended several educational sessions and particularly enjoyed the nutrition program. Thanks to Gilda’s Toronto, now my focus is self-care. I have one job to do – to look after myself.
Learn more about how we help people live, while living with cancer in the support services section of our website.