Cancer Stories Unite Authors and Advocates Around New Twin Cities Support Organization

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Authors of "Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference" (Granville Circle Press) are partnering this month with Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, a cancer support organization using personal stories to advocate for opening the red door of their “clubhouse” to Minneapolis and Saint Paul communities.

Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference

Derek Cotton and sons

It was a place to go where my boys and I were understood, where we felt like regular people.

Two years ago, when Derek Cotton of Chaska, Minnesota was asked by Gilda’s Club Twin Cities to speak as an advocate for the organization, he had never talked about his cancer publicly. He says, “When I was asked to tell my story, my first response was, ‘I don’t think I’m your guy. I don’t have this fantastic story to tell. I don’t have anything dramatic to say.’ I had cancer. I got better.” But the staff of the cancer support organization—an affiliate in the nationwide network of free and welcoming “clubhouses” for anyone dealing with cancer—knew better. They knew Derek had experiences that might help convince others of the need for a Gilda’s Club in the Twin Cities.

When Derek was diagnosed with colon cancer, he attended a Gilda’s Club in Dallas, where he was then living. He says: “It was a place to go where my boys and I were understood, where we felt like regular people. I actually felt like I could get away from my cancer at Gilda’s Club.” The Minnesota affiliate needed Derek to tell that story, to help people here dealing with cancer imagine a place in their community where they could receive the same support. This was an important story to share, especially since Gilda’s Club Twin Cities had not yet secured their bricks-and-mortar home. The organization has since purchased a facility and has launched their Paint the Door Red Campaign to complete fundraising, refurbish the space and open its doors.

“It’s not unusual for first-time advocates to be hesitant in sharing their personal stories publicly,” says Timothy Cage, co-author with John Capecci of "Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference". “But like Derek, they often come to realize that their stories can be just what’s needed to educate, raise awareness or motivate for a cause or organization.” How to use personal stories as agents of change is the subject of Cage and Capecci’s step-by-step guide, and Derek is one of the advocates featured in the book.

Throughout the month of July, the authors of "Living Proof" are partnering with Gilda’s Club Twin Cities to help raise awareness of the organization. For the book’s authors, the partnership has personal significance.

“I first heard about Gilda’s Club Twin Cities when Brandspeak Communications asked me to help with a promotional video for the organization,” says Capecci, a Minneapolis communication trainer and writer. “This was just a few months after my sister was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. Meeting the generous people of Gilda’s Club and spending the next month talking with many who had gone through similar cancer journeys was a gift. It reminded me and Tim again of the power of sharing our lived experiences.”

“It’s critical to have a comfortable, welcoming place to share our experiences of dealing with cancer and provide social, emotional and psychological support,” says Michelle Silverman, Executive Director of Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. “When we share our stories we’re helping fulfill Gilda’s dream that ‘no one should face cancer alone.” Gilda’s Clubs are named in memory of comedian Gilda Radner, best known for her work on the original Saturday Night Live. Gilda died from cancer in 1989. Shortly thereafter, her family and friends opened the first Gilda’s Club in New York City to honor her wish and to commemorate the life-changing support she received.

Gilda’s Club Twin Cities is the local affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, a network of more than 57 supportive, free and welcoming “clubhouses” where everyone living with cancer can come for social, emotional and psychological support. Clubs are healing environments where individuals learn from each other with guidance from licensed professionals. To learn more, visit or contact Laurie Walker, 612-227-2147.

"Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference" is the first comprehensive guide to telling your personal story as an effective advocate for your cause or organization ($21.95, softcover, 212 pages, 6"x9". ISBN 978-0-9838703-0-2 Granville Circle Press). It is available at independent booksellers, major online bookstores and at Authors John Capecci and Timothy Cage are communication professionals with offices in Minneapolis and New York.

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