My 'Emotional Anchor' Through This COVID-19 Pandemic Has Been a Virtual Group of Fellow Cancer Survivors

Twice a week, my local Gilda’s Club holds a “Lunch and Laughs” group meeting with cancer survivors that has kept me grounded through COVID-19 isolation and beyond.

With the COVID-19 case count plummeting, our nation seems much more at ease and returning to some sense of normalcy. In my little corner of the world — a cancer survivor slowly coming to life from hibernation —I’m grateful to be alive to write these words.

I am doubly grateful to be part of the “Lunch and Laughs” group through my local Gilda’s Club, a support group that will soon celebrate our second “Zoom-iversary” together.

Fellow patients with cancer from five states gather twice a week to laugh at riddles and one-liners, exchange pleasantries and inquire about health and family matters. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have emotionally survived without the friendship of this support group.

Open-Door Policy

Our open-door policy of welcoming all cancer survivors for a joke-and-chat fest every Tuesday and Thursday has taken some of the sting out of the pandemic. Humor goes a long way when your world is about to cave in due to stress and fear. “Lunch and Laughs” is my emotional anchor.

For me, confined to home most of my days these past two years, it’s a big deal to celebrate video chatting with fellow cancer survivors. You know, birds of a feather…

Ahead of the meetings, I find myself scouring the internet for silly jokes and riddles and practicing them out loud. I also “perform” my own one-liners and anecdotes, bringing groans from my Zoom-mates. Zoomers bring their own lighthearted fare, often tied to an upcoming holiday, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. On St. Patrick’s Day, we all wear green and try out our seriously insufficient Irish brogue.

We have a wider reach than the dozen or so weekly participants. For example, one participant’s husband submits a bunch of tongue-twisters to the group facilitator weekly. We’re one big jokey family!

We Lose a ‘Cheerful Presence’

However, life sometimes throws us a curveball. Several months ago, one of our members died unexpectedly, sending shockwaves through our group. Everyone sent condolences to the widower and family, and many in our group attended the funeral services. It was difficult say goodbye to such a cheerful presence, but the experience speaks volumes about the deep friendships that we cherish.

It seems entirely fitting that our anniversary falls around springtime, when the earth is reborn with flowers and songbirds and the promise of renewal. Despite the pain, suffering, death and loss connected with COVID-19, “Lunch and Laughs” has become a safe haven where we can relax, grin and connect.

Of course, not everything is a laughing matter. Some members of the group are undergoing cancer treatments or are concerned about an upcoming scan, blood test or an initial diagnosis for other health conditions. Those matters are part of the mix of our conversations. True friendship is our hallmark and we’re sure to check in via email to get the latest updates.

So, wish us a “Happy Zoom-iversary!” and we’ll continue to gather for mirth’s sake!

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