Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Waiting In Line At Camp

We dropped off our eight year old daughter who is in remission with leukemia at summer camp.
She is in her third summer of sleeping in a cabin for a week, playing games, running around wildly, and eating pizza all while supervised by college counselors and a full medical staff including her oncologists.
It's something she looks forward to all year long now.
It's something that always makes me both nervous and joyful all at the same time.
A mama always gets nervous leaving her child somewhere that isn't under her own roof.
The "what-ifs" always creep up.
But she's in exceptional hands while at camp.
I just wish other parents who drop their kids off were as informed about where they were leaving their children at for the week.
Okay, saying "other parents" is a very vague term.
I'm refering to the group of two parents/families that stood in line in front of me while we checked in at camp.

I've heard that there are some parents, when their child is diagnosed with cancer, who want to learn NOTHING about the disease, the treatments, the procedures.
They come to the hospital when told, they do what the doctor says, they never ask questions.
This was brought to my attention when I would come in with my notebooks filled with questions and folders full of leukemia medication side effects and copies of lab work that overflowed over the top.
The nursing staff told me that some people just don't want to deal.
Deal with the hard stuff.
But the hard stuff was coming and I wanted my family to be prepared.
So, I read everything I could (some I should not have read!) and I now have a vast understanding of what t-cell leukemia is and what effects we can expect from the treatments.

Back to those people in line at camp.
They knew one another.
From the Peoria branch of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
--The camp that we were in line for is Camp COCO and it's for children in Central and Southern Illinois who are treated at St. John's Children's Hospital and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Peoria Affiliate Clinic for cancer and blood disorders.---
It's great to know another family from the hospital that you spend/spent so much time at.
But they had no idea at all what they were dropping their kids off at.
Camp COCO is a camp that was started by Zoe's doctor and it's a SIU School of Medicine affiliate.
We get papers throughout the year about Camp COCO and Dr. Brandt's name is always on these papers.
He's the camp Director and Head Pediatric Oncologist at St. John's Children's Hospital.
Here's what I heard in front of me while in line to check Zoe into camp...
"This is a St. Jude Camp, right?"
"Oh yeah, only St. Jude kids are here."
"I thought so"
"My daughter (who was standing next to this woman and who had been at camp for the first time in 2012) said that there was another camp by this one last year that had some other kids in it."

Needless to say that my eyes bulged from my head and I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
A St. Jude Camp?
I was once again in the company of people who didn't have a clue about what was going on around them.
I call it the St. Jude Blindness Syndrome...which is a whole other blog post! 
Maybe I can kind of understand that when you are in the perils of your child's cancer that you wouldn't be on top of things and your brain is all fuzzy and spent...believe me, I understand that.
But these people were doing okay now with their kid's diagnosis.
They had already taken big fancy Disney and Hawaii trips from Make-A-Wish (something else I had to listen to while in that line on Sunday!)
The bottome line is that they are completely oblivious to what Camp COCO is all about and it made me pretty sick to my stomach.
No, I didn't say anything.
Sometimes I have no desire to speak with such self-involved people.
People who had never inquired more about what this camp really is all about.
Maybe they loved the idea that it was a free camp.
Maybe they are the kind of people who don't walk around the hospital with their folders crammed full of lab work and questions and a desire to know what's going on around them.
Maybe they want to get in and out and enjoy some perks of their kid's cancer along the way.
I don't know.
I don't know those people (thankfully!) and I'm sure I'm being harsh in my thinking of them.
But, we know what hard work EVERYONE puts into the camp experience.
We know the people who give up a week of their lives to give these amazing kids who have had to suffer through so much an amazing experience.
Who have dedicated their lives to the Camp COCO motto...Until There's A Cure, There's Camp.

I just wish everyone who was in that line to drop off their child knew exactly what they were dropping them off at.
Even in the world of childhood cancer, amidst the terror and pain and tears, there are people like these adults.
People who can't see the forest for that lone tree they have stuck themselves behind.

Learn more about Camp COCO

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