Camp for adult cancer patients healing and fun



Camp for adult cancer patients healing and fun

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

When Kay Bounds of Oxford first heard about Camp Bluebird, a biannual camp for adults with cancer, she was suffering from Hodgkin’s Disease, was depressed and figured the camp would just be a bunch of people sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.

“But then you see people taking chemo (therapy) sliding down hills and acting like clowns and laughing,” said Bounds, whose cancer is now in remission 10 years after her diagnosis. “It really changed my life. I needed that time to heal.”

The spring session of the three-day camp begins Friday at Tombigbee State Park and more than 40 adult cancer patients are expected to attend, including Bounds for the fifth straight year.

“With cancer, it’s not ever over,” she explained. “Even after the treatments you still live with it every day. If you get sick you worry, ‘Is it coming back?’ I still need that support … It’s not just three days every six months. It’s an ongoing thing. I probably don’t go a week that I don’t talk to someone from the camp.”

The camp is sponsored by North Mississippi Medical Center and the Telephone Pioneers of America. This is the event’s sixth year in the area.

“The main thing we want to focus on is the campers,” said Karen Hatfield, co-director of the camp and head nurse at NMMC’s oncology unit. “We want them to have fun, and we want to give them time away from their family because family members, often time, with the best intentions, smother them … We basically want them to have a good time and get away from the pressure the disease places on them and realize that life isn’t over.”

The camp consists of a variety of activities designed to help the patients interact, become friends and draw support from each other and the staff, which consists of volunteers and nurses.

This year’s camp will have a M*A*S*H theme inspired by the film and television series. Many of the events will take place under military style tents and a USO show and appearances by “characters” from the series are planned.

In addition, the Tupelo Civitan Club is planning a fish fry for Friday night and the Tupelo Hog Roasters will serve a barbecue dinner Saturday night.

“Hopefully by being outside some who have lost their appetite because of treatment will eat,” Hatfield said. “There are a lot who will eat at Camp Bluebird who won’t eat anywhere else.”

Bounds said the best thing about the camp is being with other cancer patients who know what you’re going through.

“One minute you’re crying with them and the next minute you’re laughing together,” she said. “You’ve got someone who understands.”

Bounds said it also helps to see the oncology nurses, who must deal with death on a regular basis, in a different setting.

“The nurses are different outside their sterile environment,” she said. “You see their hearts and how much they care for you. You’re not just a number. We’re as much a support for them as they are for us. It gives them hope, too.”

Hatfield agrees. “They teach us about life and how not to take it for granted,” she said.

The next Camp Bluebird is scheduled for Sept. 20-22. Tuition is $30 per person but financial assistance is available for those who need it. For more information or to register, call 1-800-843-3375.

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