Yesterday, my friend David sent this link to a news story about Sky High Hope Camp. I was a camper at SHHC for several years—primarily during high school. To say that Sky High is a magical place would be an understatement. In fact, as I sat back today to remember my time there, I couldn’t help but grin widely at the flood of memories. Yes, I remember that it was uncomfortable, dirty, hot, primitive, etc. But it was so FUN!
Perhaps for me, as a cancer survivor and young teen, the most important part of camp was the social interaction. Everyone there had been touched by cancer. Many of us were still sick or suffering side-effects of treatment. Being an amputee at SHHC was no big deal. Canes, crutches and wheelchairs were commonplace.
But most of all, it was a place where we could just be kids (or in my case, teens). There no one asked goofy questions about our baldness or disability. There we were all ‘normal.’ And as someone who desperately needed friends who could understand what I’d been through, I craved the companionship of other teens who had been through the same.
I remember long nights of card games, sneaking out in the middle of the night behind the counselor’s backs and being in cabins or tents where I shouldn’t have been. We often broke the rules, but our rule-breaking seemed justifiable in light of the fact that our lives had been so cruelly ‘broken’ by disease. It hardly seemed mentionable that we were in the wrong cabin, when each of us was facing death’s door.
At camp I also experienced love—the kind of teen love that can leap tall buildings and climb high mountains. Camp provided numerous opportunities for romance and it flourished every year. Though I have fond memories of trysts, what I remember best is a kind of quiet longing that became more intense as friends died [friends like LeighAnn, Russ, and John D]. I was never sure which of us campers would be back the next year. And I was most afraid that it wouldn’t be me or my beloved.