CLINTON — A cancer support network has made its way to Clinton. Gilda’s Club of the Quad-Cities has already partnered up with Mercy Medical Center and is now inviting the public to an open house at Hy-Vee from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8.

Gilda’s Group is a free emotional and support group for people with cancer, as well as their friends, family and caretakers. Program manager and point of contact in Clinton, Anita Shaft, said that showing people that there is an avenue to support and proper resources is one of the critical points in cancer support.

“Trying to get people together to share in their experience (is important),” Shaft said, “(We can) let them know they’re not going through it alone.”

The open house welcomes everyone to check out Gilda’s Group services and speak with staff about questions relating to cancer support. The group expanded into Clinton as it noticed a need for support.

As Mercy laid out in its community needs assessment for 2016-2018, the incidence rate of breast cancer is higher in Clinton County than the national average, at 128.9 per 100,000 population compared to 119.7; the rate of death due to cancer is 186.6, which is higher than the state average (175) and Illinois’ at (184.1). With information that the county, and surrounding areas, had higher rates of cancer, Gilda’s Club of the Quad-Cities started outreach at Mercy’s radiation oncology and a monthly cancer support group at Zion Lutheran Church.

“We know that coming almost an hour to our services can be a barrier,” said Joy McMeekan, interim executive director at Gilda’s Club Q-C. “We wanted to bring our services directly to the community.”

And so far, they are off to a “great start,” according to Shaft. Since noticing the need for more comprehensive support, they partnered with Mercy, and the Gilda’s Club in Clinton is in its second month of cancer support groups, and has hosted two workshops — breast cancer prevention and life with cancer (treatment, side effects, quality of life). Shaft is available to speak on local services and resources in the community on Tuesday mornings or by appointment, and the meetings at Zion Lutheran Church are every second Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. in the church library.

Shaft and a contractual worker, Stephanie Neal, with the support group, are so far the staff in Clinton. Gilda’s Group also hosts lectures, workshops and other social events on various aspects of living with cancer and its impacts in the Quad-Cities. Services, in addition to support and outreach, include (but are not limited to): Frankly Speaking About Cancer, a series on the ins and outs of the disease; stress management groups (Cancer 2 Health), and healthy lifestyle programs such as meditation and nutrition; Friday morning coffee clubs, and support counseling.

The group was created in memory of Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner who died due to ovarian cancer in 1989. While going through her own treatment, Radner spoke out about the need for emotional and social support for patients and their loved ones.

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