Monday, July 6, 2015

The Past At Camp

It's happened again. 
Every summer I am left alone. 
For a week. 
All by myself. 
Well, until Chad pedals home from his long day at work where he's been watching YouTube videos with his boss and hiring some people for the Fall semester during the University's summer break. 
So, my week of solitude has begun. 
Because the girls are at summer camp. 

On the way to camp yesterday we were tallying up the years and this is Zoe's fifth year at camp. 
How is this possible?!
Well, let's see. 
She's ten now. 
She got cancer at age five. 
She's at cancer camp and you can go to cancer camp at age six (unless you're her sister, but I'll tell THAT story in a minute.)  
And yep. 
She's right. 
It's her fifth year at summer camp. 

Excuse me while I wipe my wet eyes. 
I'm fine now. 

As we dropped the girls off I saw our daughter's past standing in the line of kids to be checked in. 
A young girl who was quite obviously in the throes of her treatment. 
She was horribly thin. 
With very pale skin. 
She had dark eye circles that peered out from under her hat's bill that contained a head that no longer had hair. 
It was my daughter in 2011. 
And in 2012. 

Now Zoe looks normal. 
She has long hair. 
And a full face. 
Full of freckles and smiles. 
And the girls in her cabin are all healthy now. 
Their days of chemo and steroids and zero energy are far behind them. 
In a place that hides within their memories because now they want to be like everyone else their age. 

Zoe's sister Gigi goes to camp with her. 
Siblings of children with cancer are greatly affected by the traumas of cancer. 
You are required to be six years old to go to camp. 
But Gigi went last year. 
When she was five. 
Because...she's Gigi. 
Once you meet her you'll never forget her. 
And she's been going to her sister's oncologist visits since she was 22 months old. 
And she's the only kid at camp that gets chocolate milk. 
With every meal. 

I walked, really ran to keep up, with Zoe to her cabin. 
Helped her get her bed put together. 
Then walked across the camp to the cabin her sister was staying in. 
Gigi had taken dad with her to help her set up her bed in her cabin. 
Once Chad and I completed bed making duty, we switched cabins. 
He walked to Zoe's cabin to tell her goodbye and she quickly gave him a hug and kiss then ran away to be with her friends. 
So he returned to Gigi's cabin. 
Where I was. 
He came in as I was telling Gigi's counselors about her custom-made ear plugs that she needs inserted before she can go swimming. 
She gets swimmers ear without them. 
And that the nurses had these expensive ear plugs with them. 
At cancer camp, there are lots of nurses and oncologists wearing t-shirts and shorts instead of ties and scrub tops. 

That's when I saw her. 
The little girl who was my daughter's past. 
She was in Gigi's cabin. 
Her bed was made up. 
Her stuffed animals were situated on her bed for the week. 
And her parents were trying their hardest to leave. 
But it wasn't happening.
I've been there. 
I've had to leave my daughter in someone else's hands for a week while she was on chemotherapy. 
It's about as hard as walking away from your child as she's being wheeled into surgery. 
Chad saw the girl's father wiping the tears away from his eyes before his sweet daughter could see them. 
Something that he himself has done. 
In that same cabin. 
And I think it's important for us to see that. 
To see the effects of cancer and chemo on a child. 
Our past. 
It's a reminder to us to chill out. 
To not take things and situations so seriously. 
To remember that life is sweet and that we can't take our children for granted. 

I'll know this girl's name when we pick up the kids up on Friday. 
Gigi will have, no doubt, befriended her right away and I'll hear all about the fabulous things they did this week. 
And Gigi won't hesitate to treat this new friend with love and respect.
Because she, and the other kids at camp, have seen and lived what she is experiencing right now. 
And they'll give her hope. 
And memories to sustain her through it all...

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