“You have cancer.” Those are three words nobody wants to hear. They can change a person’s life in an instant, and make us feel fearful and anxious, alone in this world, and out of control. What most patients need is not only the very best and most advanced medical care, but also solid emotional and social support—support that’s so critical that a 2007 report of the Institute of Medicine deemed it to be just as important as medical care. The IOM concluded, “Today, it is not possible to deliver good-quality cancer care without addressing a patient’s psychosocial health needs.”

Residents of the Coachella Valley are extremely fortunate to have access to the high-quality, professionally led programs of cancer support offered by Gilda’s Club Desert Cities, an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community. And there are no financial barriers. The entire program is offered free of charge to everyone who needs it, thanks to the generous contributions of individuals and foundations, grant funding, and income from fundraising events.

Best of all, Gilda’s Club extends their support not just to the person with the cancer, but to their family as well.  Recently the programs serving families have been expanded in a number of ways, making it possible for even more people to participate. For example, to accommodate those who work, a full range of support groups has been added on Thursday evenings at the main Gilda’s Club location in Cathedral City. There are separate groups for those living with cancer, their loved ones, and those who have lost someone to cancer. Two Spanish-language support groups—one for cancer patients, the other for their loved ones—are now offered as well. Currently there is a special “Kid Support” program for children aged 6 to 13 whose parent or relative has cancer.  This special 10-week long kids-only course and the regular year-round children’s “Noogie Nights” sessions are held in English and Spanish.

The new Thursday evening support groups augment regular daytime programming, which includes weekly support groups as well as classes in yoga, meditation and tai chi. Additional monthly groups including a post-treatment support group called “Life After Treatment” and “Couples During Cancer,” for couples managing the changing dynamics of their relationship when cancer enters the picture, are now held on Monday evenings.

At Gilda’s Club, there are programs for everyone affected by cancer. All it takes to get started is to attend a brief orientation and tour of the nurturing, homelike environment of the facility. If you or a loved one has recently heard the words, “You have cancer,” then call Program Director Litsa Mitchell, LMFT at 760-770-5678 and get the emotional, educational and social support you need right now—support, that, as the Institute of Medicine reminds us, is as important as medical care.

Gilda’s Club Desert Cities, an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, is located at 67-625 East Palm Canyon Drive, Ste. 7A in Cathedral City, and programs are also available off-site throughout the Coachella Valley. For more information, call 760-770-5678 or go to www.gildasclubdesertcities.org.

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