By Janet Coulter, MSN, MS, RN, CCM, FCM

Do you remember Gilda Radnor saying that on Saturday Night Live? Gilda was one of the seven original cast members of the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" on the NBC comedy series Saturday Night Live. She created characters like the obnoxious personal advice expert Roseanne Roseannadanna (modeled after a New York reporter, Rose Ann Scamardella),  "Baba Wawa," a parody of Barbara Walters, and Lisa Loopner. She also had a highly successful one-woman show on Broadway.

Gilda died from ovarian cancer in 1989. Her widower, Gene Wilder, carried out her wish that information about her illness would be used to help other cancer victims. Her wish was the founding—and inspiring the founding of—organizations that emphasize early diagnosis, attention to hereditary factors and support for cancer patients. The first club opened in New York City in 1995. And it was named Gilda's Club. It became a network of affiliated clubhouses where people living with cancer, their friends, and families, can meet to learn how to live with cancer. The founders included  Joanna Bull, Radner's cancer psychotherapist, along with Radner's widower, Gene Wilder (also a cancer survivor) and broadcaster Joel Siegel (who later died after a long battle with cancer). The organization took its name from Radner's comment that cancer gave her "membership to an elite club I'd rather not belong to".

In addition, Gene Wilder established the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program] at Cedars-Sinai to screen high-risk candidates (such as women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent) and to run basic diagnostic tests. He provided testimony before a Congressional committee. His testimony included that Gilda’s condition had been misdiagnosed. He stated that if physicians had inquired more deeply into Gilda’s family background, they would have learned that her grandmother, aunt, and cousin all died of ovarian cancer. Further investigation could have led to an earlier diagnosis and treatment, and possibly improved the outcome.

Gilda’s death helped raise awareness of early detection of ovarian cancer and the connection to familial epidemiology The media attention in the two years after Radner's death led to the registry of 450 families with familial ovarian cancer at the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry, a research database registry at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. The registry was renamed the Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry (GRFOCR) in 1990 and renamed the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry in 2013.

Many Gilda's Clubs have opened in communities across the United States and in Canada. Gilda's Clubs offer a welcoming community providing support and networking groups, lectures, workshops, and social events free of charge. The Club is famous for its signature red doors meant to symbolize Gilda’s "vibrancy”. In July 2009, Gilda's Club Worldwide merged with The Wellness Community, another established cancer support organization. It became the Cancer Support Community (CSC).  Although some affiliates of Gilda's Club and The Wellness Community have retained their names, many affiliates have adopted the name Cancer Support Community following the merger. The mission remains the same: bring the highest quality cancer support to the millions of people touched by cancer by providing support, fostering compassionate communities, and breaking down barriers. Gilda’s Clubs and The Wellness Community can be a valuable resource for case managers and their clients.

Gilda's Club serves communities across the United States and Canada. Some locations include:

  1. Chicago, Illinois
  2. New York City
  3. Detroit, Michigan
  4. Twin Cities, Minnesota
  5. Quad Cities
  6. South Florida
  7. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  8. Louisville, Kentucky
  9. Middle Tennessee
  10. South Jersey
  11. Kansas City, Missouri
  12. Greater Philadelphia
  13. St. Louis, Missouri
  14. Rochester, New York
  15. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  16. Madison, Wisconsin

Gilda’s story can be read in her book, It's Always Something. Her autobiography covers her life, work, and personal struggles, including her struggles with cancer. Hopefully, her story will also make you laugh a bit.

Living with cancer is not a choice. How you live with it is.

Get ready for a week of inspiration and insight as we celebrate Case Management Excellence! You’ll have education, networking, mindfulness, PRIZES and an open forum on how to demonstrate your value as a case manager! See the entire schedule here:

Bio: Janet Coulter, MSN, MS, RN, CCM, FCM is a transplant case manager with a wide variety of experiences including educator, administrator, team leader, and Director of Case Management. Janet holds a Master of Science in Nursing from West Virginia University and a Master of Science in Adult Education from Marshall University. She has published many articles in CMSA Today and the Professional Case Management Journal and served as a reviewer for the Core Curriculum for Case Management Third Edition. She currently serves as Chair of the CMSA Today Editorial Board and Secretary of the CMSA Foundation board. Janet was the recipient of the CMSA National Award of Service Excellence and Southern Ohio Valley CMSA Case Management Leadership award and was recently inducted as a Case Management Fellow from CMSA. Janet has been active in CMSA at the national and local levels. She is currently President-Elect of CMSA National, Chairperson of the Editorial Board of CMSA Today, Chairperson of the Nominations Committee, and Vice-President of the CMSA Foundation.