From our very first visit to the Lutheran Children’s Hospital Pediatric Oncology Clinic the nurses and staff talked with Henri about Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do. This gave all of us, but especially Henri something to look forward to during the toughest times of treatment.
The first time that Henri went to camp he was excited but also a little worried about being away for a week. It helped that Garrett was able to go with him. That is one of the special qualities of camp; the sibling is considered an important part of the equation. There were times during the week that Henri was homesick and Garrett was called over to help. It made us feel good about sending Henri, and it made Garrett feel great to be so welcomed and included in the fun.
We were a little worried about sending Henri because he was at the end of a treatment that had taken its toll on him, and he had just received chemotherapy one week before. Henri also was in the youngest age group, and he had never been away to camp. Knowing that his nurses would be there was a great comfort. When we arrived, we saw so many familiar faces. It gave us confidence that Henri would be well cared for. As we pulled into camp we immediately ran into a friend of Henri’s from school (another survivor) who has since become a close friend as a result of camp. That helped to put us at ease.
Henri and Garrett couldn’t stop telling stories from camp. For several weeks they would break into a song from camp or re-enact a funny skit. It was also a great reunion the second year when they arrived and got to see many of their friends and counselors. Describing how special CWWD is for us is nearly impossible. Camp is generally a wonderful experience for children; special friendships are made; self discovery and independence start to happen; and long lasting memories are cast. This is certainly true about CWWD, with added benefit that Henri will continue to forge relationships with other survivors who not only understand what it means to live through treatment, but who will also experience some of the same questions, concerns, and emotions as they grow older. For at least one week every year Henri gets to be just another kid having a blast with a bunch of other kids. He is a special kid for sure, but he just wants to be treated by his peers as if the scars left by cancer are not there and don’t need any explanation.