camp makadream! – “i couldn’t make a wish, so i made a dream instead” – counselor

camp, was awesome!  i was nervous about going to “cancer camp”, its one reason i didn’t want to go to “cancer-con” when i first heard about it this spring. i thought it would be all crying, people hooked up to iv bags, people in pain, everything that i didn’t want to remember.

was almost completely opposite!

yes we did cry. but it was during a “cabin chat” and our camp leader asked if there was anything anyone wanted to discuss as we had equal amount new comers, and seasoned campers / survivors staying together and technically the camp was about moving forward, survivor-ship and working through the emotional difficulties. that day was difficult for everyone i think, it was about 4 days in and we had been through many  physical challenges with activities slowing down, and in a crowded living space ( cabin was very nice, but becomes crowded with everyone and their bags) and of course with side effects of exhaustion ( not the only one!) that wears down on a person to by the end of an extremely busy week.  that morning during a “mindfulness” session we experimented with being in the moment while walking and i had a flashback, so of course to me it was a negative experience and i shared that with the group . first time ive had that type of flashback , i basically had to relearn to walk after chemo and i remember holding on to the treadmill while pacing my steps to make sure i didn’t fall. yes the severe bone pain was gone, but i was still sick from the chemo and all those smells and feelings rushed back at me.  i felt safe to share it though, and i didn’t feel different because other people mentioned similar experiences throughout the week.

  being 5 years remission and suddenly having this urge to talk to others about all this, it was nice to finally be with people who didn’t tear up at the word cancer, who understand the ickyness of the prednisone and the small pet scan injections ( which i had a nurse tell me did not exist one time. i let her have it and she did not return at the end of my pet. hmm) who gave me a hug after a crying session not because of pity but because they understood the experience.

here are my posts from facebook ( plus a little extra from throughout the week)

Thursday – arrived in missoula montana! was bussed to gold creek to “camp makadream”  greeted outside of the bus by the camp counselors and a goody bin to start the week, i got a purple frisbee. we went to our cabins and received green tote bags, a blue water bottle and our itinerary. was in camp beartooth! learned quickly that they were going to “dote on ” us this whole week by the staff bringing our bags to the bus, and to the cabin and serving us in the dining hall.  not used to that type of treatment! but i got used to it quickly, it was nice having someone else take care of me , and taking that time for myself when normally im all about helping others.

(friday) Survived climbing the “butte”! (small mountain, bigger then a hill that plateus on top) took several breaks but I did it! And on my second try completed the rock climbing wall!!  
(insert: super empowering to know that I could do it! being super tired and exhausted all the time has made me feel horrible, like i am just lazy (or feel like thats what people think of me since, obviously im out of treatment and i looook fine – long term unseen side effects suck) i had tried climbing the wall once, we had one that started slanted and one that was straight up and down . the slanted one, i got half way and then i couldn’t lift my legs high enough and go from leaning forward to backward.  after a while i stretched real good and went up the straight up and down / no slanted and got it with only 1 30 second brake with 6 feet to go to the top.  woohooo!!!!!. after that i went to the “art barn”, and realised they had an entire studio for people to work in throughout the week. made my warm fuzzy to hang in the hall.  warm fuzzy bags were hung up for people to put notes in throughout the week, and candy :).   after art barn we had a cabin chat , ice breaker to get to know eachother, then dinner and then 9 square.  a bunch of us stood in this 9 squares and hit a volleyball to eachother to get someone out ( whoever missed the ball or didn’t get it in someone elses square).  it stayed light till ilke 10 pm!! ( 11 pm central time back home)  We then went and dipped our legs in the hot tub with some other campers and counselors.  found out my skin is very sensitive to the chemicals because my feet immediately began burning and peeling after leaving the hottub. we went back to the cabin before 1 am, it was a good day )

(saturday) Yesterday, went to Missoula farmers market, had amazing ice cream and walked around some awesome shops, came back for a pool party, movie, inspirational speaking and cabin chats. (sunday) Today rode a horse, climbed the rock wall, archery, super hero party trivia and games, and did some “warm fuzzy” making. (we each put up bags with our name for people to put notes aka “warm fuzzy” into). Time to go to sleep early. More fun tomorrow!

(insert: just realized i may have mixed up thursday and friday evenings but that’s ok
( Saturdays and sundays insert:  farmers market was huge, bought amazing fudge from neldas marvelous fudge stand, salted caramel chocolates and honey lemonade. mmmm.   alot of people recognized our camp shirts because the area is big on fundraising to sponsor peoples travel out to the camp and to keep the camp free for patients and survivors.  we watched the movie duff.   i hate being the duff!  anywhoo.  was a pretty awesome weekend regardless of mixing up the days activities)

(monday )Today, did a high ropes course with zipline, attended two mindfulness workshops, look good feel better work shop, a deep cabin chat discussing some of our emotional challenges, dance party after dinner and finished my warm fuzzies! And even though I was frozen with fear at being 35 ft in the air balancing on a wire holding a rope, one of the awesome counselors came over and helped me through it. Finished the rest like a champ! Plenty of photos to come , tomorrow’s last day, flight home early Wednesday.

(insert:  my negative experience was during the am mindfulness, it was negative but positive at the same time. part of processing and moving forward is to experience and feel and accept. still a long journey as the moments appear but thats ok. doing my collage and other art projects help, and now i have peers to talk to and share with as well.  i did need help on the high ropes. being 35 feet in the air balancing on a wire holding a rope made me frozen, but a counselor walked out from his end and helped me by taking my hand and making me look at him and avoid looking down lol.  went really quick at that point !  throughout this week i kept saying, if my nephew whos 10 wants to do this, and the kids i work with who are 10 and above can, i can to!  was facing fears and shedding that self doubt,. working on it anyway. now that i know i survived the high ropes, i can have fun next time!)

final dayTuesday : finished mindfulness work shop/research participation, prepared for talent show, sketched portraits at said talent show!, then received “grandma tyedye” reward (each of us in the old lady cabin got a reward) at the fancy banquet they held for us, then stayed up signing each others pillows while waiting to head to airport. A local grandma quilting group donates the pillow covers for camp participants throughout the summer. Such an awesome week, and will miss these people and the mountains, but I’m looking forward to coming back home 

i will add a new post with images 🙂  i met such amazing people at this camp, or “young adult conference / YAC”  some who are still on chemo, recently off chemo, in studies to keep track of mutated genes, people in remission.  everyone was full of life and energy in their own way, smiles and greetings from seasoned and newbies alike. the counselors have all been touched in someway by cancer, either as a sibling, a friend or a surivor. They also had volunteers in each cabin, who have somehow been touched by cancer either through work (ours was a radiation technician intern), or survivors or siblings.  Some of the ladies in our cabin were staying for the next weeks camp or had stayed in the previous weeks camp.  We shared bits and pieces of what treatment was like, learned about other treatments and what different diagnoses meant.  one young breast cancer survivor showed me her scars, and the volunteer was able to describe where her radiation treatments were .  Shell be getting her new boobies in october 🙂 .   this camps motto was ” come to camp, could change your life”.   so fortunate i was able to get a travel scholarship and meet these amazing people, but also to take the time for myself and relax in between outdoor activity.  i can do things, i am still me! just a different me, my new normal.  But now i know that in my new normal, i can still do what i used to enjoy and that makes all the difference. im not alone anymore 🙂