When we arrived, we were greeted by smiling faces, giant bears, and tons of energy. I wasn't sure what to make of it. I must have looked stunned and terrified at the same time. We went in to register and they gave us our info - we were the only family this weekend that had never been to camp before. Immediately I felt alone - and scared. Everyone would know each other, and we would be alone. that was my fear. We got checked in, found our room, got a ton of help moving all our stuff in (we had water, snacks, tons of pillows, sheets and towels - that's how it works - it's kind of like camping; you bring everything with you). Once we got settled, we headed up to dinner. The first night we had assigned seating and were put with a family that we didn't know (there were two families there that we knew locally - not from treatment, but from after). A wonderfully sweet volunteer sat with us. She told us about herself and about camp. It was good to have someone to start the conversation. After, there was a brief orientation, and some singing, we were off to try and settle in for the night - still not sure what the next day would bring.
Friday was a new day for me. I was ready to try and make the best of everything and meet some more people. We had a short orientation, and the kids went off to their day camp activities. Then the adults had activities - games; crazy, silly, goofy games. We were broken up - no spouses together - and set into groups of strangers. But here was the funny part - these strangers didn't think I was crazy; they didn't think I was shy; they didn't look at me with fear in their eyes. We were all in the same boat - we had all watched as our children suffered and then died horrible deaths - we were all the same - there, we were all normal; no longer "different."
And that's when it happened - I truly, completely relaxed. I didn't have to hide anything; I couldn't shock them with my stories, and they wouldn't run and hide in fear of it happening to them, because it already had. A weight lifted off my shoulders. I could be free and open - I could be me.
Each day we had a parent group session, where we all shared our stories, an talked about our fears, concerns, questions, and sadness. But it wasn't all sad - it was support. We got to hear what others were doing, how others were doing, and that we weren't crazy. And we made so many new friends - friends that we will never ask us if we are "over it," or if we think she's in a "better place." Friends that get it and that will always get it.
We will definitely be going back.
oh yah... karaoke!