Christine Forte Gilda's Club Middle Tennessee cancer support community volunteer donor Everyone Has a Cancer Story

 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer about 12-and-a-half years ago. I was 38 at the time and received the news over the phone as I stood surrounded by boxes – literally in the midst of a move from Raleigh, North Carolina to Orlando. It was an incredibly difficult time… My husband was busy getting into a new job. I was in a city I didn’t know with two young children. I didn’t have a doctor or any friends who were local. I didn’t really know anyone. …People sometimes ask how I made it through and, the truth is, with a lot of prayer. I also found strength in things I’d learned from my mom, who we’d lost to ovarian cancer.

About eight years ago – and cancer free – I moved to Brentwood. I knew I wanted to help others facing cancer and was fortunate enough to become friends with Brian and Victoria Marger, who introduced me to Gilda’s Club. We attended some Gilda’s events together and when I found out about the opening of the Williamson County location in 2018, I was eager to become more involved. I began doing outreach for the organization – delivering monthly calendars to hospitals and doctors’ offices, talking to nurse navigators about the program, and chatting with patients who I knew could benefit from the things Gilda’s Club offers. It’s such an honor to be a means of support through someone’s diagnosis… In addition to reaching out, it felt good to communicate back to Gilda’s Club the things I was learning along the way, including about area businesses and individuals who were willing to lend support. Relationships like these can be key to helping nonprofits overcome obstacles and grow.

In April 2019, my now-teen daughters and I took another step in our efforts to give back. We opened a purpose-driven boutique, because we wanted to be a positive light in the world, be involved in our community, and give back to area nonprofits. Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee was the first nonprofit we shared proceeds with.

When I think about Gilda’s Club, I can’t help but think about how my own cancer experience would have been different had I had access to something like it. Individual counseling and support groups have obvious benefits, but so do the other things you can be a part of at Gilda’s Club, like arts and crafts and yoga – things that make you feel whole and “normal.”

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