This past weekend (Since Thursday) Richard and I were in Maine at Camp Sunshine Camps Sunshine was founded in 1984 as a Family Camp for people who had children with cancer. Since that time, it has grown to offer sessions for children with other horrible illnesses as well. What makes this camp different from other “cancer camps” is that it is for the WHOLE FAMILY, not just the child that is sick.
The time we spent there this weekend, was for a Bereavement Session. This is a special session they hold twice a year for families that have lost a child to STUPID CANCER or other kinds of horrible illnesses. It was an amazing time. Throughout the weekend, they have Day Camps for kids of all ages, they break up by age. They also offer fun activities for the adults. Some for the parents together, some for the men, and some for the woman. One of the greatest parts I though were the Parent discussion groups.
Since we first heard those words “I am sorry but Alexander has cancer”, I have felt different. I was no long just “Nancy – Alexander’s Mommy” but I was “Nancy the one whose baby has cancer”. I did not like being different. I made some wonderful friends at the hospital that were different like me, and it was there that I felt “normal”. But outside of the hospital I was different. Many people did not know how to act around me, or how to talk to me anymore. I wouldn’t say I “lost” any friends, but things were, well, different.
After Alexander died, I was now “Nancy the one whose baby died”. Again, many people not knowing what to say or how to act treatment me different. I am sure much of it stems from people thinking “how would I act/feel/be if I were in Nancy’s shoes” – of course you can never imagine that – and I hope that no one ever has to imagine that in their lifetimes. But, intentionally or not, I do feel like some people treat me differently. Sometimes I feel like people think I SHOULD be sad all the time, or they are surprised when I am not upset on certain days, like Christmas, his birthday or Angel day. But, in reality, most of the time when I say I am “fine” – I really AM FINE! Of course I have my down days – sometimes it is a down week. Often when people have asked me how I am I will reply with “today is a good day” or “today is a bad day”. It really is day by day. On the days that people would think I would be sad (like his Angel day) I am actually doing rather well. Until you have walked this path (and again, I hope that no one I know now EVER has to walk this path with me!) you really can’t “get” what I am saying.
So, back to the parent groups at camp. For the first time since we found out about Alexander’s cancer, I didn’t feel “different”. I felt Normal (whatever normal is!) I was not the “one” whose baby died – because everyone there had lost a child. Some were more recent than my loss (just a few months) some were many many years down the road of grief. Everyone had a different story to share I was able to talk to some families that went on to have or adopt other children since their child has died. That was great, to give me some hope for the future with our new baby. It will be hard to let this new little one know about Alexander, but I am feeling better about it after talking to some of the other parents.
We are home again – and back to “reality”. But I feel better than I did when I left, because I know I have a whole new family of friends that “get it”, and whom I can call upon to help me through those bad days.
Thank You Camp Sunshine for all that you do!!!!!!!!!!!!!