“I was diagnosed 15 years ago with breast cancer. That’s how long I’ve been on this journey,” explains long-time Gilda’s Club volunteer Patti Wise.

Anyone who has met Patti is likely to remember her. She has a big smile and is full of warm energy. You may have seen her organizing the Gilda’s Club library, serving as a greeter during Gilda’s programming, or cooking for Family Night. In fact, Patti has been such a huge part of Gilda’s Club that she was recognized as the Amy Nickles Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (ABCD) award winner for 2023. 

After Patti was done with her breast cancer treatment and mastectomy, she wanted to identify a wellness goal. She knew that she wanted to try something new as she figured out “what next” in her cancer journey. She saw an ad for Gilda’s Run/Walk 10 years ago, and decided that running a 5K was her next “thing.” Patti had such a great time that she’s come back and walked as a part of Gilda’s Run/Walk every year for the past 10 years. 

Becoming a Gilda’s volunteer

After her experience with the Run/Walk, Patti decided that she wanted to expand her involvement with Gilda’s. After she retired in 2017 from the University of Wisconsin, she wanted to spend more of her free time volunteering. She began by cooking meals for Family Night and delivering outreach brochures to medical clinics in Baraboo. 

While she enjoyed both of those volunteer opportunities, something clicked when she started volunteering as a greeter. She remembers thinking, “This is what I really want to do.” She continued as a greeter even when programs were off-site after the flood of 2018, and she was among the first volunteers to return when the clubhouse re-opened for in-person programming after the pandemic.

Photo of Patti Wise in the Gilda's Club Madison library
Patti Wise in the library at Gilda’s Club Madison

“You’re not alone”

As a greeter, Patti is the first face that returning members or those who are new to Gilda’s Club see when they walk through our red doors. They could be at any point in their cancer journey…from those like her who are post-treatment and trying to figure out “what next,” to those who have just heard the words “you have cancer” for the first time. 

“At Gilda’s, you’re accepted for where you are. People come here who are still in shock, confused, sad, or depressed and that’s OK. You’re accepted for where you are on your journey and you’re not alone,” she explains. 

Patti continues, “People hear the word ‘cancer’ and they think it’s the end of the world. But there are people here who are living such full lives. And that’s what Gilda’s is all about.” 

Learning to treasure each day

Outside of her volunteer work at Gilda’s Club, Patti has two big joys in life: her granddaughter, and traveling with her husband. Her granddaughter Maddie is 18 months old and loves spending time with her grandma at the park. Patti and her husband recently returned from an incredible trip to Portugal. This summer they’ll be headed on a “bucket list” trip to watch the British Open in Scotland. 

Patti shares, “A cancer diagnosis isn’t good news. But it does make you treasure each day.”

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