Today I have a guest blogger, my daughter, Michaela Rosen.
Note: Please reference the earlier blog post about Camp Kesem for information about the camp.
I applied to be a counselor for Camp Kesem GW with the naïve belief that I could somehow help the campers. I was wrong. Those kids actually helped me face the cancer demons that haunt me. Throughout camp, all the campers demonstrated strength, happiness, determination, and optimism.
I was a counselor for the youngest unit of children: 6 and 7 year olds.
My unit had a magical week. We sang songs, played games, and attended different rotations (arts & crafts, sports, nature & adventure, dance & drama). My campers made myself and the other counselors laugh throughout the week. I love my “babies” so much that by the end of the week I was referring to them as my “kids.”
Each and every one of them lost a parent to cancer. How unfair.
Throughout the week campers made comments that ripped through my heart.
During arts and crafts, we made fortune cookies; one boy wrote, “I wish my mom’s cancer would go away.”
At dance and drama when a song from “The Lion King” came on a camper started crying because the song reminded her of her dad who passed away. She later told me that she no longer attends dance classes because her dad was the one who brought her to class.
One night during the week, we have an “empowerment session.” During this time the entire camp sits in a circle by unit. One by one each unit stands up and the campers have the opportunity to share how their lives have been impacted by cancer.
Children in high school all the way down to the 6 year olds broke down in tears. Many spoke of a parent passing away due to cancer. Others spoke of a parent currently going through treatment. One young girl even said that she felt “cheated out of her childhood.” Throughout all of these stories, tears streamed down my face. I realized that yes my family’s situation is an awful one to be in, but things could be much worse.
My campers were young and had a hard time grasping why they were attending Camp Kesem, so when it was my unit’s time to speak I stood up and shared my story. I gave a synopsis of my mom’s cancer journey. And then as I looked around the room, said, “The best part about sharing my story last is that I was blessed to have heard all of your stories. Now, no matter what my family encounters, I will always think of all of your strength and know that I will be okay. My family will be okay.”
On the last day, I spoke to parents.
One man who lost his wife to cancer was picking up his three children. He turned to me and said, “you have no idea how much Camp Kesem really helps them.” (Talk about trying to fight back tears while smiling and saying ‘thank you.’)
Another woman spoke with me about her husband passing away; her son was in my unit. We spoke about how its important to never leave anything left unsaid, how you need to live your life without fear, and most importantly how things will get tough down the road. There will be dark times that my family will face, but we must be brave. She held me by the shoulders while the tears came flowing out of my eyes; she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You will be okay.” I took a deep breath and laughed that I needed to pull myself together. “That’s the beauty of Camp Kesem,” she said, “you don’t need to be put together.” We hugged and I told her that she was so brave and I cannot wait to see her kids next summer.
I pray that all the campers find peace within themselves despite the challenges they face. I am inspired by these children, blessed that they came into my lives, and honored that I could put some “magic” into their lives. We all need this type of “magic” in our lives. I have learned from my mom the importance of laughing, smiling, and having a good time. It’s good for our souls. It’s even more important to put some magic in your life when your parent has cancer, had cancer, or you lost a parent to cancer.
I cannot wait for next year’s week of magic.