From Patient to First Time Volunteer
| August 6, 2019
“You have cancer” is not something I thought I would hear at 21 years old. That was something I thought happened to other people or in movies, but this time it happened to me. It was the end of July 2016; a month before I was supposed to start Pharmacy School at the University of Kentucky, and I had been having an increasing number of migraines. My chiropractor decided to send me to a neurologist for an MRI. It revealed a 33.5mm brain tumor, a grade II ependymoma, wedged between my brainstem and my cerebellum. A week later I had the tumor removed and then I underwent 6 weeks of radiation. I still started pharmacy school that year and I have been in remission since January of 2018! This past fall during class, one of my professors, Aaron Cook, was wearing a KCA vest. I asked him what he did with the organization and how I could get involved. He said that I should look into being a counselor at the summer camp. As soon as the application opened, I got online and applied. Then before I knew it, it was time for camp!
The first couple of days at camp, I caught myself just stopping and watching the kids as they found their home at camp. They fell back into the old friendships they had from years before, and new campers melted in. I was on activities staff the first week and spent most of my time at arts and crafts. I have two words for you about arts and crafts: MELTY. BEADS. If you don’t know what those are – look them up, I’ve never seen kids so focused on something! It settled even the wildest of young boys.
Being a girl, I expected myself to bond more with the girls’ cabins but ended up finding my place with cabin 7, a group of high energy, older boys with some of the biggest hearts. I spent most of the evenings hanging with those boys on their porch. We sang to country music and they told jokes. I laughed so hard I cried… more than once.
The second week of camp, I was in charge of fishing. Let me tell you, I am from Cleveland, Ohio. When I tell my family and friends I was in charge of fishing (with some help from David, of course), they’re not going to believe me, but I truly loved every second of it. There’s just something about watching a little kid’s face light up when he realizes he has a fish on his line. I also decided to buy an 88-cent oven mitt (because the fish in the pond are primarily blue gill and have spikes on the back of their fins). I could tell some of the counselors thought “city girl brought an oven mitt because she’s scared to touch the fish”, BUT by the end of the first day kids were fighting to use the oven mitt to throw their fish back in the pond. Best 88-cents ever spent!
During camp, you can’t even tell a lot of the kids are sick or have ever even been sick. They are fearless. They jump into an ice-cold pool in 46-degree weather at 7 o’clock in the morning. They get up and sing, without backup music, in front of a crowd of 50+ people. They are inspiring. Never fished before? “Hand me a rod!” Never shot an arrow before? “Pass me a bow!” I loved it so much, that even though I had originally only signed up to do the younger oncology camp, by the Thursday of that week, I was already asking to come back and volunteer at the next week of camp. It was so much more than fishing, archery and arts and crafts- it was a place for these kids to just be kids. No needles, no hospital beds, no cancer. Just camp, friendship, and lots and lots of smores. Volunteering at Kids Cancer Alliance continued to inspire me to pursue my dream in pharmacy school to become a pediatric oncology pharmacist.