My last post was a thank you to all my wonderful cheerleaders who’ve supported me and looked after me throughout everything. But as wonderful they all are, there are always going to be times where I need to talk to someone who really gets what I’m going through – someone who’s been there themselves. Or just talk to someone neutral – someone outside of it all, who I don’t have to worry about upsetting or burdening with my issues. And I’ve found both those things in The Girls Club.
The Girls Club is an amazing cancer support service in Cork and despite the name, it’s not just for girls. It was set up in 2011 by Ann Dowley-Spillane, herself a cervical cancer survivor, and one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever met. Ann has a fierce spirit and attitude and is the kind of person who within minutes of meeting her, makes you feel like everything is going to be okay. She set up The Girls Club to support women who are battling with cancer, to give them a safe place to talk and vent with others in the same situation, and to give them a little respite from the daily toil that cancer can be. They like to say that “the kettle is always on” in The Girls Club and that’s definitely true. You can drop in any time of the day for a cup of tea and a chat with one of the volunteers, or just to sit there in the quiet and rest.
And it’s not just tea and conversation they provide. The centre offers a range of support services to women dealing with cancer and to their families and they don’t charge a cent for it. They have trained counsellors, massage therapists and Reiki to name just a few. There’s meditation, workshops, classes, a knitting circle and even a wig and scarf library. Everyone who works there is a volunteer and dedicates their time and skills for free. They’ve opened a charity shop on Academy Street in the last year and there’s always a new project or fundraising opportunity on the go there.
One of the nicest projects they run is The Blankets of Hope. Anyone whose ever been in a chemotherapy unit knows that it can be a bit chilly. And hospital blankets aren’t the cosiest. So The Blankets of Hope project provides handmade blankets to each chemotherapy unit in the Cork area to give to the patients. There are people all over Cork knitting away to provide a little bit of comfort to people going on their cancer journey and you can almost feel the love and support knit into every stitch.
For me, the centre has been wonderful. Most of the time, I prefer not to think of myself as sick. I’m just getting on with my life and if I hit an occasional bump in the road, I just keep going through it. But sometimes, I need to put my brave face aside and let go. The Girls Club lets me do that. I see a counsellor there regularly to help me deal with everything that’s happened over the last year and a half. I talk, I rant, I usually cry, I sometimes laugh, and I invariably leave there feeling unburdened and ten ton lighter. The relief of being able to let out every little thought in my head to a totally impartial person, who doesn’t judge and whose feelings I don’t have to worry about hurting, can’t be measured or understated.
For me The Girls Club has been a blessing and I know it has been to so many other people too. Surviving cancer is one thing but that’s not the end of the road for most people. There’s a long road to recovery, mentally and physically, and with people like the volunteers from The Girls Club by your side, it makes travelling that road a little bit easier.