Thursday, November 1, 2012


Yesterday, I picked up on some disturbing news about Gilda's Club.  It requires me to rant....

For those who knew me back in the 70's when SNL was what you talked about all week long, quoting lines from the many hysterical characters Gilda played, will understand my total shock in hearing this news.

Let's start with who was Gilda Radner anyway?

Gilda Susan Radner - born 06/28/46, died 05/20/89 (ovarian cancer)

Gilda's comedic style was character driven, verbally and physically unique.  She was often compared to, and ranked up there, with Lucille Ball.  Some of her characters were Roseanne Roseannadana, Baba Wawa, Emily Litella, Lisa Loopner, Judy Miller.  These were my personal favorites.  Gilda shared her comedic talent with millions  every Saturday Night 1975 - 1980.  

In 1979, Gilda took to Broadway, her one-woman show "Gilda Radner - Live From NY".  It was also filmed, and released on video as Gilda Live! in 1980. 

In the mid 80's, she met and fell in love with Gene Wilder while filming a movie. They married in 1984.

October 1986, Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  It took 10 months of tests and incorrect diagnoses until it was determined ovarian cancer.  Gilda endured powerful and painful chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  She went into a brief remission.  In 1989 her ovarian cancer returned.  While having a CAT scan, she was given a sedative.  She fell into a coma, and died 3 days later from ovarian cancer.

The Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center at Cedars-Sinai was established by Gene Wilder to screen high-risk candidates and run basic diagnostic tests.  Had the medical community been aware of Gilda's family history of ovarian cancer, and realized that women of particular decent (Ashkenazi Jewish) were of high risk, the possibility of catching Gilda's disease earlier could have resulted in a different outcome.  The awareness raised by Gilda's cancer, for early detection and familial connections, resulted in a registry - Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry (GRFOCR).  This registry has resulted in earlier detection and longer lives.

Gilda's Club was established in 1991, by Gene Wilder, to provide a network of clubhouses across the US and Canada.  These clubhouses provided a meeting place for people affected by any cancer, and their families.  They could obtain information about their disease, learn how to live with cancer, and meet others with similar issues for strength and comfort.  Gilda and Gene had often spoken about the lack of community assistance for all cancers. There is a Gilda's Club here in the Dallas area where I live.  I have visited the center a few times, and donated various items for members in need.  It was a bright and cheerful facility.  Three years ago, Gilda's Club merged with The Wellness Community, and became the Cancer Support Community.  Somehow, this news escaped me.  I happened to drive by the Dallas Gilda's Club a couple weeks ago.  As always, I glanced at the building.  But this time, the familiar Gilda's Club name/logo was missing, and in its place was Cancer Support Community.  My neck nearly snapped off as I tried to stare and soak in this shocking new signage.  Then, yesterday, I saw a news posting about the renaming of all Gilda's Club facilities to this new Cancer Support Community.  WHAAAAAAAAT????  As I scanned various news reports, they all stated that the board of directors decided that the younger population didn't know who Gilda was.  So the decision to drop Gilda's Club from it's title was made.  WHAAAAAAAAAAT????  Really??  That is totally insane.  Gilda is this club.  This is a part of a woman's life history that should be taught and embraced.

Prior to Gilda's death, she wrote her autobiography "It's Always Something".  It included a good deal of her struggle with cancer.  I loved it..... but then again, I loved Gilda.

So, now, those of you who did not know Gilda Radner, know a little about her. Was that so hard to do Cancer Support Community?  

Shame on the board of directors for making a ludicrous uninformed decision to simply erase the name of a woman who was able to accomplish more in her shortened life than most can do given more time.  Shame on the board of directors for not keeping alive the history of the community centers by acknowledging her existence.  Shame on the board of directors for not keeping the humor and laughter brought to us by Gilda within the community centers. 

What better way to honor this woman than by adding a place where others can learn about her life and how she inspired Gilda's Club.  Reserve a space where cancer and the thoughts of cancer can disappear for a time, where they can watch Gilda in her profession of comic relief.  Play the SNL clips, Broadway show, and her various interviews regarding her diagnosis.  Post along the top of walls her quotes. Would any of that have been so hard to do?

This news of removing Gilda's name is deeply disturbing to me.  It's saddening.  It makes me incredibly angry.  It simply does not make sense.

Go out to the internet and search Gilda Radner - go to You Tube and watch the various clips - read her autobiography.  And when you do so, you can't help but smile.  

“While we have the gift of life, it seems to me that only tragedy is to allow part of us to die - whether it is our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness.” 
― Gilda Radner


  1. Dear Cindy,

    You write so eloquently: with passion and intelligence. It's both moving and illuminating.

    Thanks for the info.

    I don't know how to blog, actually and have a hard time with anything more complicated than a telephone anymore.

    There are so many ways of communicating.

    Still, I want you to know that I think of you often and keep you in my prayers often. Your struggles and strength are an inspiration to us all.

    Truly and with prayers,


  2. I was completely unaware of this until reading your blog. I remember buying Gilda's autobiography the day it was released, and taking it home to add to my never-ending-books-to-be-read pile. However, curiosity got the best of me, and after reading a few pages, I settled in and read the book all day to the end. While sad at times, I often laughed out loud at her incredibly unique observations of the human condition. I particularly enjoyed her description of standing out by the road to flag down the members of her cancer support group, who she had invited to her and Gene Wilder's home, fearing they would miss it in the rain. Classic Gilda Radner. After all that she has given to those with cancer and their families, as well as Gen Wilder's efforts to make the blood test that could detect gynecological cancers early, allowing for substantially higher survival rates, such a change is unconscionable. I used to refer a significant number of patients to the Gilda's Club in Broward County, to help with their depression, and especially for their children. Families encounter huge barriers in communicating about anything involving the "C Word." It is additionally difficult with children, as parents try to protect them, almost instinctually. But Gilda's Club provided excellent guidance in this area, with the added opportunities of child and youth groups and activities, where the children were surrounded by peers to share with and communicate their fears and concerns in a supportive environment with others who may have the same concerns.Without Gilda and Gene's generous contributions, financially and physically through action and advocacy, there could easily be no cancer support community. It always turns my stomach when I see the Cancer Treatment Centers of America commercials, declaring their care and concern and advanced treatments for those with cancer in a uniquely caring and supportive atmosphere, when, in trying to find treatment for a friend with Medicaid, I called them only to learn they don't accept Medicaid, and only certain Medicare plans. They would not make an exception. That seemed to be everything but care and concern. They would be more appropriately named The Cancer Treatment Centers for the well Insured and Wealthy. But back to Gilda. Her clubs were unique and blazed new trails in treating the full spectrum of issues related to cancer. The name change makes no sense. What would happen if we took this approach with other areas? Would we be renaming roads, schools, parks an other structures and institutions, as we don't expect certain members of the society to be familiar with the individual it was named by? Given the declining education in this country, if we took this approach, we would have to stop naming things after people, since so many of our graduates have a shamefully poor knowledge of history. I want more info on this, and take action. It is so terribly wrong. I wonder what Gene Wilder has to say on the matter? Uuugh!