The Gang's All Here!

The Gang's All Here!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Silver & Gold

Make new friends,
But keep the old.
One is silver and
The other gold

A circle is round,
It has no end,
That's how long
I'll be your friend

That's an old camp song that's been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks now. I miss summer camp!! I was an avid 4-H club member growing up. Each year, 4-H camp was hands down the best week of my summer. In my teens, I was a counselor which I think I loved even more. I loved camp so much that I was on perm staff (permanent staff) for an entire summer. What's not to love about camp? Ghost stories (our 4-H center was actually haunted), campfires, making new friends and reuniting with old, wildlife interfering with daily activities (read: snakes, bears, etc) and daily treks up and down the mountain.

One of the best memories (and opportunities) that I had as a teenager/ early college student was to be a counselor at Camp Fantastic. This camp was also held at the 4-H center, but it was different in that it was a camp only for kids with cancer. Each summer, the week I spent at Camp Fantastic was the most uplifting, gut-wrenching, crazy fun you could ever imagine. It's an experience everyone should have at least once. I mean, these kids are absolutely amazing and resilient. Childhood cancer is cruel and unfair, but these campers were so positive, so happy just to be doing something "normal", like going to camp for a week. The camp staff is unique in that they have a full crew of doctors, nurses and other essential people on hand for whatever a child might need. So, even some of the sickest kids were able to come to camp. How cool is that? And, oh the good times we had!! Singing camp songs around the campfire, carnival nights and talent shows, the fun went on and on. As a counselor, and someone who had not had cancer, at times I felt like the outsider and that was a very humbling feeling. I was welcomed with open arms by my campers, cancer or not. And that's something I've kept close to my heart, all of these years later. Children can be some of the best teachers, not to mention those who have had to endure so much, so young. On my down days, when I think about how unfair and ridiculous life can be, I remember my days at Camp Fantastic. Surely if those kids can handle cancer with a positive attitude, I can too.

I'm making friends in the chemo lounge. I met a wonderful woman named Carrie and her 21 year old daughter on Friday. Carrie just finished her chemo and has moved on to maintenence Herceptin until her mastectomy, which is next month. She's doing the same treatment process as me. She was so friendly and down to earth, as was her daughter. Carrie was also positive and honest, which I really appreciated. What's unique about her situation? She and her daughter BOTH have cancer. So, yes, things can always be worse and I can't even imagine what they're going through. But even with all of that, mother and daughter were both looking toward the future and enjoying the extra time they were given to spend together. If that's not inspiring, I don't know what is!


  1. The R Family said it right. "How how" to great 4-H camp memories and to your positive outlook, Erin.
    Kirsten Dodd Francis

  2. Ah, camp. Those were good times, even though I was never actually in 4-H. The singing, the packing lots of junk food to eat at night. The winter camp weekend when it snowed. I still think fondly of Ranger Rick. I wonder if he really did become a forest ranger? Just think, now that I'm living back in Winchester, Dalton could conceivably go to the same camp. That's kinda cool.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out to Camp Fantastic, which has earned every cheesy reference to the word "fantastic." I'd like to include it in the next LoveLetter if that's okay. As for 4-H camp, summers working perm staff were the best four years of my life (not unlike 3rd grade). Of course, that was before extension decided it was safer to dismiss American Indian culture altogether rather than risk misrepresenting it...

    Hang in there,

    Dave Smith
    Special Love, Inc.