Periwinkle Family Camp: Arriving
It was a long rainy drive to get here but after busy streets and long dark wet roads we arrived to Camp For All. We joined with 7 other families and counselors, whom which most were long term survivors. We all sat in a covered basketball court around a fire, which huge fans controlled the smoke. We all introduced ourselves and told our story why we were there. There were some with Leukemia, just like Yousuf, one girl early in her treatment. Another boy who finished his 3 ½ year treatment then relapsed 4 months later received a bone marrow transplant and is doing better now. There was another girl, due to her cancer, had to get both eyes removed. Our retreat was shared with a mother and son who went through ALL, and finished treatment for a while and are doing great.
There was marshmallow roasting, smo’res and skits. We all stood in a circle side by side and sang a song, “The world’s greatest” with “dance moves” to the song, all except the little blind girl who stood next to us. I glanced around the circle at the enthusiastic dad clapping and smiling, the long term survivor sitting in a wheel chair waving his hands in the air, the little girl who just started growing her hair back…and Yousuf standing right beside me holding his arms up as if flexing his muscles right after singing, “Hey, we made it, I’m the world’s greatest”. I smiled… what a camp! What a family!
I’m speechless after 14 hours of the most amazing hours of my life. I’m sad to see them gone so fast. Our retreat was lovely, warm and cozy. Originally, I was worried how it was going to be. Was there going to be coffee in the morning? If someone saw that I brought a blow dryer would they laugh at me? I was immediately relaxed when I first walked in the retreat to find the family I shared it with. The mom asked me, right away, if I had a brought a hair dryer because she forgot hers. I was grinning big, while on the corner of my eye I saw a coffee maker, fridge and even the wifi device sitting on the table. That’s a nice way to “camp” I thought.
Yousuf went rock climbing, went on a zip line, did fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, pet ponies, a rabbit named “Pillow” and made some really neat arts and crafts. He even baked cookies and made his own frosting stuffed with blue dye and sprinkles. I took one bite, forced a smile, and stuffed the rest in my pocket for “later”. I won’t tell him the complete truth about that until later.
There were really too many wonderful people I met, great stories I heard and feelings I felt. So, I just thought I would mention some GEMS or awesome moments where I either wanted to laugh, cry or take a deep breath, or just some inspirational thoughts.
Camp Periwinkle doesn’t tell you to shoot for the stars; there… you are the star.
Yousuf raced ahead of me to get his breakfast tray, not telling the server “no sausage” so I had to bring the tray back up and try to explain it to the cafeteria workers. They seemed a little confused on what I wanted, so while I stood there briefly, one of the fathers (who is like 6.5) walked by and asked what the problem was. I just told him my son accidently grabbed this tray not realizing this was pork. He immediately took it and said he didn’t want to see food being wasted. Then the cafeteria lady saw me standing there empty handed asking me if I wanted another tray. Uhh…That’s what I’ve been trying to ask for I thought! The guy made it easy and made me laugh, too.
Canoeing in the rain with my little 6 ½ year old son and future long term survivor, insha’Allah-God willing, in a camp made specifically for kids with disabilities, specifically for Yousuf. The moment was bliss and the memory forever.
A long time ago Yousuf saw the picture, in a magazine I was reading, of the girl’s brain, which only had half of one. He acted as if he was reaching in his own head and grabbed a portion of his brain and he put his hands out and told me, “She can have half of mine, mama.” After watching the little blind girl win bingo and go up and get a prize, I thought, I wish I could do that with my eyes. If only I could give her just one.
We got to color a pillowcase which read, “Take Me Back to Camp”. It was made for a little girl, who went to camp then had to go back to the hospital shortly after. She cried for them to take her back to camp. She never got that chance. They made her a pillowcase with her words…and story to go on forever.
Hearing the other families call us “family” and the idea of being able to follow their progress in their life has given me excitement and motivation to get the most out of all of this.
Being escorted and served by the people who were once in my shoes was an honor and the priceless gift of hope.
Cancer changed my heart, but Periwinkle filled it with love.
A "wish float" is making a wish then lighting a candle then sending them down the river, only the weather was bad so we made ours standing under a covered basketball court and shivering under blankets. My wish was, “To live in a cancer free world where everyone had a heart of a cancer patient, which is filled with love, courage, hope and strength.” Then I let Yousuf say a wish, which was, “For it not to be cold and rainy tomorrow.” It gave us a nice laugh to go with the tears.
May God continue to brighten up the world, as the fireworks lit up the dark sky that night, with these beautiful children.