Participant Profile: Gillian Harwood
In honor of National Pancreatic and Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we would like to share Gillian Harwood’s story. Gillian is a seven-year pancreatic and lung cancer survivor and a CSCVVSB support group participant.
Gillian (Gill) Harwood was diagnosed in 2005 with both pancreatic and lung cancer. After having surgery to remove a lobe of her lung, she had a second surgery to remove her pancreas, spleen, and gall bladder. The difficult recovery included a five-week hospital stay and a feeder pump. Once she was released from the hospital, she still required care from home nurses and her husband, who she says is a “fantastic caregiver and champion for me.”
After the ordeal of two major surgeries, Gill still had to get through her chemotherapy treatment. In her oncologist’s office she learned about the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara (CSCVVSB). “When I was well enough to drive I decided to visit and then joined, which was one of the best decisions of my life,” says Gill.
At first, Gill wasn’t sure about joining a support group. This would be her first experience in a group setting and she wondered if it would be depressing. “How wrong I was. It was so inspiring and educational and made me feel that my wonderful facilitator Anne Gessert and the other members of the group have given me confidence and allowed me to have a grumble when I have felt low,” says Gill.
While Gill’s doctors have pronounced her pancreatic cancer “history,” the lung cancer reappeared, requiring more chemotherapy. For the past several years Gill has been taking an oral chemotherapy on a reduced dose due to severe side effects. “I am now on my third head of hair,” states Gill.
Throughout the grueling experience of surgeries and treatment, Gill has found hope and camaraderie among her support group members. “It is very consoling to be with people who have experienced the overwhelming terror of finding out that you have cancer. I am so happy I discovered the Cancer Support Community and I am so grateful for the staff, volunteers and donors and all of the wonderful survivors who are fighting this battle as I am. It is a constant battle but it is made so much better by all the people being so inspiring and uplifting.”
Gill lives in Westlake Village with her husband Barry and enjoys traveling to see her family scattered around the country and in the United Kingdom. She has three sons, three stepdaughters, eleven grandchildren and a great granddaughter. Gill also loves going on cruises, reading, and cooking.