I just finished up my week at Camp Sunshine!
For those who don’t know, Camp Sunshine is a volunteer based camp for families dealing with a child who currently has/has survived/has died from a life threatening disease. It’s a really beautiful program that has flourished over the past 30 years to help families all over come for a few days of normalcy. It hosts all sorts of diseases and gives parents, patients, and siblings a chance to reach out to one another in a stressful and emotionally exhausting time. I found out about camp when I was in high school and have been going since I was 16. Over the years I have made some really fantastic friendships with both volunteers and families and look forward to the week every year. The session I usually opt for is Brain Tumor week- high grade, low grade, remission and other depending on my schedule. I haven’t had a chance to try out any other weeks because of school and such, but I hope to go back for maybe a winter session or their pumpkin festival near Halloween.
This whole cancer joinery I found myself longing for a support group and optimism that only camp sunshine can bring. I kept my cancer to myself, since it’s about those families and not me, but it was just nice to be able to hang out with people with a silent understanding and appreciation of their fearlessness. I’ve begun to adopt the saying “if it’s not funny, it’s just sad” and watching a girl show us how she learned to blow bubbles from her tracheotomy tube was a visual representation (I’m serious. She’s pretty good at it too). I always feel humbled to be allowed into these families lives for just one week. My hope is to be able to bring them a bit of peace while we are all together.
I’m still trying to deal with this inner battle. I thought maybe camp would justify my lonely feelings, but I still find my inner voice questioning whether thyroid cancer has been a big deal or whether I’m just making it a big deal for no reason. Say you just learned how to ride a bike and you’re so excited to share this historic milestone with everyone you knew. And you work so hard to get to this point and assume that the people who love you will be too. But once you started telling them you hear “so?” or maybe “Well I learned how to do that a while ago” or “I can already do tricks on mine”. And that flame just flickers out and the pride is gone because what you’ve done isn’t so special anymore. That’s how I’ve been feeling this entire time. I finish school, I dealt with my cancer and even if people don’t flat out say it, a lot of the time the facial expression reads “So what?”. And then I go to Camp Sunshine all excited to be with kids who can relate on a fundamental basis of being a cancer patient and you know what? I didn’t get that feeling at all. I didn’t even feel comfortable sharing my story because I never went through chemo, radiation, seizures, surgeries for shunts and ports, and weeks in the hospital. I’m fortunate enough to have been older and stronger when I was diagnosed and had the hind site to keep myself healthy for school. I mean don’t get me wrong, camp is a magical place and I will continue to go for as long as I can, but i know in the future it is not where I can seek solace for my invisible cancer journey.
So, if camp did not meet the high-than-usual expectations I had for it, then why am I still writing my blog? Because maybe, just maybe, someone out there is listening and if you are, I hope that my story brings you laughter and courage. Sometimes its hard to pull yourself up, but it’s always worth it.