Getting the news that you’ve been diagnosed with cancer raises many questions. Turning to your family and close friends can offer great support, but they may not really understand how you feel or what you’re going through. That’s when Camp Bluebird enters the picture, a unique experience for adult cancer patients.
If you take a look at the many photos posted on the organization’s Facebook page, you will not see any sad faces, or people that appear sick or in pain. Instead, the faces are full of joy, laughter, and love. It is clear that the people who attend Camp Bluebird are not looking for sympathy, they are searching for answers during a very scary and sometimes uncertain time. They play games, they dance, they dress up in costumes; they are enjoying life in spite of the disease.
So, what is Camp Bluebird? The very first Camp Bluebird designed for adult cancer patients, was organized in 1985, by a cancer survivor at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, and has since spread to many locations throughout the country. Middle Tennessee’s Camp Bluebird was founded in 1987 as a partnership between Nashville’s Saint Thomas Hospital and the Telephone Pioneers of America (now the AT&T Pioneer Volunteers), and is among the longest-running education-oriented services of its kind.
Like the other locations, Middle Tennessee’s Camp Bluebird is also the first camp in the Middle Tennessee area designed for adult cancer patients. Attendees have a truly unique experience during their 3-day, 2-night stay, during which time experts offer education, support and encouragement in living life after a cancer diagnosis, perhaps one of the most difficult challenges an individual can face.
The camp is held each spring and fall at beautiful YMCA Camp Widjiwagon, located near Nashville, TN. Counselors for the camp are made up of an enthusiastic team of registered nurses, social workers, chaplains, nutritionists and volunteers, many of whom are cancer survivors themselves.
Designed to help reduce the isolation felt by many cancer patients, the camp offers guests an opportunity to retreat from the daily grind, for a time of listening, learning, sharing, and caring with new friends. As one camper battling brain cancer remarked, “When I first came to camp, I didn’t know what to expect. Now, I know I need to go home and what to say to my family.”
The camp also explores the lifestyle adjustments patients need for living with or beyond cancer; an assessment of non-medical needs; education regarding medically-related concerns such as nutrition, exercise, side effects from cancer treatment and management of these symptoms; and normal, fun camp stuff like crafts, games, cabin skits, yoga, dancing and swimming!
Just like summer camp when you were a kid, campers stay in lakeside cabins with dormitory-like facilities. The campground is situated in a peaceful, scenic setting, and offers easy access to beautiful views of nature, as well as outdoor activities like hiking and fishing.
Here is Camp Bluebird’s policy for those who are interested in attending:
All campers (first-time or returning) must complete an application packet in order to be considered for camp. They must must be eighteen years or older, and must have been diagnosed with cancer. First time, and newly diagnosed campers are invited first; Previous campers still in treatment are next on the list; Everyone else is placed on the list and selection is made according to the number of times you have previously attended camp, and the number of years of survivorship; Attendees must also be able to perform activities of daily living independently.
To learn more about accomodations in Middle Tennessee, Camp Bluebird sponsors and registration, please visit www.campbluebirdnashville.org or contact Irene Bradford at 615-222-3847. For other Camp Bluebird locations, Google “Camp Bluebird Web Site” and select a location near you.