Caroline, in our Patient Services team, spoke to Rachel about her daughter Jasmine’s experience at Over The Wall, a camp for children with serious health issues part-funded by Anthony Nolan.
Can you tell me a little bit about Jasmine?
She’s coming up for 16 now. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) when she was 7 and then relapsed as soon as she finished treatment, so then had a bone marrow transplant. We had another 9 months in hospital. To see her you wouldn’t believe it, you wouldn’t know there’s anything wrong with her. She’s a very fit and active girl.
How did you hear about Over The Wall?
The CLIC Sargent social worker told us about it. She said it was an amazing place and thought it would be great for her to go and make friends, so we thought why not! She first went when she was 9 and still in maintenance treatment.
Why did Jasmine want to take part?
We’d spent so much time in hospital, so it’s great to go away, have fun and forget about everything for a while. From the moment you arrive, you’re just swept up in this whirlwind of camp life. It’s just amazing, the energy is incredible, it suits Jasmine down to the ground with her personality. It was great for her to just get to be a kid again.
What were her expectations of camp before starting?
She was a little bit apprehensive because you don’t know what it’s going to be like. But I think I was worse than her, probably because I was responsible for her 24 hours a day and suddenly you are handing that responsibility over.
Was there anything you were worried about initially?
I was a bit anxious and knew that the house was going to be very quiet! But it was an important thing for her to do and I really wanted her to get away, be independent and escape what was going on at home.
I needn’t have worried as they are wrapped up in camp life straight away. The volunteers immediately involve them so it’s impossible for anyone to feel left out. As soon as we turned up and met everyone I knew that it was going to be fine for her.
What kind of activities did Jasmine take part in?
There are so many. She’s done archery which she loves, face-painting, canoeing, climbing, crafts – she’s made some lovely things over the years. They had a disco and a talent night – there’s such a wide variety. They have a packed itinerary for the whole week and there’s something for everyone.
Was there one activity she enjoyed the most? And why?
She loves the climbing wall and she really loves archery. She likes the sense of achievement of getting to the top. The main thing is that everything is made fun at camp, no matter your ability.
What has Jasmine spoken about the most following camp?
She doesn’t stop singing because they’re always singing camp songs, and she’s made lovely friends. The food is apparently amazing. That’s always a big hit with everyone, but friends overall would be the main thing.
Jasmine has long-term friends that she has made at camp. They may live a couple of hours away from each other, but they try to arrange meeting up. They’re her best friends because they all understand each other, and what they’ve all been through.
How did she feel after camp?
It’s a mixed bag of feelings. On the journey home there’s lots of chat about everything that’s gone on, but then there’s also a little bit of sadness at not being able to see her friends the next day.
Did you notice any change in Jasmine’s confidence or self-esteem afterwards?
I think having support from the friends she has made there has really helped. That’s the biggest thing to come out of it. It’s not just about going on holiday or having fun – it’s about the downtime and the friendships. She has said camp is the ‘silver lining’ to what she has gone through and the challenges she continues to face. That speaks volumes.
What would you say to another family who are thinking about taking part?
Definitely apply – you have to apply! I think it’s the most important thing you can do for your child if they have gone through or are going through cancer treatment. It’s the highlight of the year. The kids talk of it as being a ‘camp bubble.’ It’s an amazing place for them to be away from normal life. It really is just the best thing for them.
If you’d like to take part in the next Anthony Nolan and Over the Wall family camp please visit: anthonynolan.org/family-camp-2019