Camp Kesem, part III

Today I have a guest blogger, my son, Max Rosen.

Going to camp for the first time is very tough, especially when you’re 15 years old, but for me it was the best experience ever.

On Sunday morning I checked in to camp, and seeing all these campers that I have never met before was quite nerve racking. Luckily a counselor introduced me to some campers my age, and they introduced me to all of the teen campers, and just like that we were all friends.

Camp Kesem helps you deal with the cancer in your life, an escape, the closest thing to a normal camp. I was part of the teen program, so my rotations were different than the younger units. We did activities like hiking and playing sports. The camp we were at, Camp Wekeela in Hartford, Maine, is a beautiful camp. The camp has a soccer field, beach volleyball court, tennis courts, and a performing arts center. Many times during cabin time, our free time, we would play ultimate frisbee, tether ball, or soccer, that included everyone from the younger campers to the older volunteer counselors from MIT.

Aside from normal camp activities, the teens went on an overnight camping trip in the woods. The most amazing part of the camping trip was looking at the stars. The sky was so clear without the distortion of city lights, and you could see so many stars as a result. One of my friends swears he saw a UFO.

My favorite part of camp was empowerment, specifically when we went into our small groups. Our small groups were composed of 1-3 campers and 1 counselor. In the groups we talked about anything; why you are at camp, what it is like at home, or how you deal with the cancer in your family. As a first year camper, a question was asked directly to me. The question was “How has Camp Kesem changed your situation?” My answer to that is that I realized I am not alone. I said that I used to think I was all alone on a kayak. I thought this because I did not know anyone whose parent has or had had cancer. Camp Kesem changed that, I learned that instead of being alone on a kayak, I am on an unfortunate cruise ship.

Many of my friends spoke to the whole camp during empowerment, explaining why they are at camp, and how great camp is. Unfortunately, my friends have stories worse than mine. One of my closest friend’s mom has lung cancer. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his mom was on a trial drug that wasn’t supposed to have any side effects, but it is making her lose her memory. And as if that was not enough, his parents are going through a divorce now and he is being sent to a boarding school this year.

Another part of camp I really liked was called affirmation. Affirmation is when a large circle is made with everyone’s backs facing in and a smaller circle inside with backs facing out. When your glow stick color is called you go around the circle and tap the shoulders of people. Prompts will be called out like “Tap the shoulder of someone who you admire.” and you would go around the circle for minute and tap the shoulder of everyone you admire. This part of camp is very emotional, but is is also an amazing one.

Camp Kesem was an amazing experience, it taught me that I am not alone, and that my situation could be a lot worse than it is. Even though Camp Kesem is camp for children whose parents have cancer, had cancer, or died from cancer, it just seems like camp to us, an escape, and I can’t wait for next year.

To all my friends from camp, my prayers go out to you and your families.

CLAM (Camp, Love, and Magic),
Ribs (Max)

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