Sleep Away Camp

I never went to sleep away camp when I was a kid. The opportunity just never arose. Instead, I went camping, backpacking or took road trips with my family.

My kids have the opportunity to go to sleep away camp this summer. This camp is designed for kids with a parent who has (or had) cancer. It’s meant to allow kids to have a great week just being kids, with the opportunity to talk about their experience if they want to, or not talk about it if they don’t. It’s not therapy. They have the chance to make friends who are going through the same kinds of things they are.

My littlest is excited to go. My eldest, not so much. She wants to bring a friend. Since none of her friends have parents with cancer (thank goodness), that’s not really an option. She fully believes this will be a week of therapy, even with multiple assurances that it’s just meant to be fun – no therapy involved. She’ll meet new friends, try new things, laugh a lot and come home asking when she can go back. She still doubts us.

She’s normally resistant to trying new things, even though experience has shown that when she does, she enjoys it. Soccer being a good example. So we weren’t surprised when she replied to our announcement with a firm, “I’M NOT GOING!” So, we dug a little deeper.

With as much as we’ve talked about it and as open as we’ve been to questions, she doesn’t want to talk about my cancer with others. It’s not that it’s embarrassing (like everything else to a 10-year-old), she just doesn’t want to talk about it. I understand this, since it’s not something I want to talk about every moment of every day either. But it brings up a some thoughts about cancer from a child’s perspective. While we’ve been very open with our kids about what’s happening, when there’s nothing happening it becomes easy to ignore it or push it to the back of the closet. How do explain to a child that Mommy is doing well now, but it can all change in a heartbeat? Can you explain that to a 6 and 10-year-old without setting off extreme anxiety? Getting them to a point where they are constantly on edge waiting for something traumatic to happen? Or does that prepare them for the possibility of the trauma? We don’t know what or when, but we’ll likely see some more drama in our lives. How do you explain to children that something MAY happen, but we don’t know what or when?

So, coming back to camp. We asked her who, besides us and her grandparents and neighbors, she has talked to about it. She said no one. We asked if she had anyone who’s gone through something similar. She said no. We asked if she felt she could talk to any of her closest friends if she got worried or anxious or just felt like she needed to talk to someone about it. She said no and mentioned that some people don’t even know and she’d like it to stay that way. I understand where she’s coming from – I don’t want cancer to be everything that I am, with people treating me like I might keel over at any moment, dancing around me as though I might break. She doesn’t want to be seen as ‘that kid who’s mom has brain cancer.’ She just wants to be a kid.

I think the week at camp will be good for both kids, to be able to talk to other kids who’ve experienced similar things with their parents. But is that enough? Should we be taking the kids to family therapy? Should we be helping them to process the possibility of the worst case scenario more? Or should we just keep allowing them to ask questions, sharing information if anything changes, and continue to let them have their childhoods without their mother’s cancer interfering with their days and friendships?

Stuff To Do When You Feel Blue

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Oh no, not another list!’ But here it is anyway.

I’ve heard so many people talking about feeling blue this week, and the same trend has happened over the last few months. It seems that we may have a collective blueness cycle. I thought I’d share some ‘super helpful’ tips on ways to feel just a little better. These are things that work for me (sometimes), maybe they’ll work for you when you’re feeling a little blue. Please note that this list may be more relevant for the introverts – extroverts may want to call a friend, go out dancing, or something else that sounds awesome to an extrovert.

1. Watch Peep And The Big Wide World. Yes, it’s meant for the preschool crowd, but this show will make you giggle. I swear.

2. Run, walk, bike, swim, dance, do yoga, kickboxing…whatever exercise you chose, just get your body moving.

3. Buy/borrow your favorite book – as an audiobook. There’s something very comforting about listening to someone tell you your favorite story.

4. Find a movie that will make you cry your eyes out – like full-box-of-tissue cry your eyes out – and watch it the whole way through. I personally recommend Marley & Me, The Notebook, Up…but everyone has something that turns on their waterworks. Whatever it is, sometimes a good hard cry does wonders.

5. Make a list of things to do – chores and errands, even if you write down ‘shower’, ‘get dressed’, ‘eat breakfast’ – then cross them off. It may help you feel like you accomplished something. Some days, it’s ok if all you can manage is to get out of bed and eat a bowl of cereal.

6. Do something nice for someone else. Send a card to a good friend, just because.

7. Go somewhere really dark – outside – and see if you can find a satellite floating through the sky. It will remind you how big the universe is. Then remind yourself that you’re an important part of that universe – especially to those who love you.

8. Write it down. Journal your feelings, fears, angers. You don’t need to make it public, but sometimes you just need to get it all out of your head.

9. Go get a massage or a mani/pedi – let someone else take care of you for an hour or so. Do NOT go get a haircut – rash choices are typically made when blueness and hair are combined. You may regret it later.

10. Think about your diet – what have you eaten in the last few days? Food is fuel – are you fueling yourself with goodness or junk? (I will always feel like crap after I eat too much sugar or skip a meal or realize I’ve forgotten to eat fresh fruits/vegetables.)

If none of this works, maybe you have other ideas. Otherwise, it’s maybe time to talk to someone – a good friend, a therapist, your doctor. There’s no reason to feel miserable and if you feel like there’s nothing you can do to climb out of the blueness, it’s time for some help. Ask for it and feel better.

(A note for all of my parents and parents by marriage – I’m not feeling blue just now. It’s ok, relax.)