I attended Camp Mak-A-Dream for the first time when I was fourteen years old. Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought it would be pretty similar to camps that I used to go to as a kid, but it was so much more than that. At camp, we did all the things that tend to come with a summer camp – arts and crafts, horse back riding, swimming, and a plethora of fun outdoor activities. However, it was not the activities themselves that stand out in my mind, but the people I experienced them with. At camp, they do their absolute best to make sure every camper gets to experience any activity, despite any physical limitations they may have from their disease. Being paralyzed did not prevent someone from riding the zip line, being fatigue and weak from chemo didn’t stop anyone from jumping in the pool.
The first day, I thought it would be hard to make friends and looking at the agenda, I didn’t see how I could do half of these activities with how weak and ill that I was, but there was not a single thing there that I did not do. After a few hours, I felt like I knew almost everyone at camp for years. One of the most amazing moments I had was during the butte hike, a tradition at Camp Mak-A-Dream. I was with all of my fellow campers and the counselors at the base of this massive cross between a hill and a mountain, thinking to myself “there is no way I can do this”. But the friends I made at camp took my arms, and we never turned back. Together, we all hiked up that butte, the stronger individuals helping the more fatigued campers. I took lots of breaks, sitting down and catching my breath, but never took these breaks alone. Eventually, we all made it to the top, and as I overlooked the most beautiful view of the camp grounds among endless mountains, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the moment. I felt infinite and invincible, my disease didn’t matter, none of out cancers mattered, because we had made it, and if we did that, it felt as though we could do anything.
Camp Mak-A-Dream gave me confidence, hope, and a positive spirit that I was desperately lacking, and I have returned to this camp year after year. I would recommend any child, teen, young adult, or adult with cancer to go to a camp, any camp, fitting for their age group that is for cancer patients and survivors. No mater how frightening or difficult it may seem, I know it will be worth it. It truly is an experience like no other to be surrounded by so many people who really know what you are going through, and the activities are a lot of fun too! Take the leap, you will not regret it.