The Caregiver and I helped start a camp for grieving children, Mikey's Camp (named after a dog, not one of my Mikes). We believe it so crucial for kids who have experienced the death of a loved one. Every camp, we hear, "this is the first time I've been around other kids who actually get it." It's usually the first time kids meet other kids who have lived through the death of a parent or sibling.
A whole new world has opened up for them. A world where they don't hear,
"Yeah, I know how you feel, my dog died and I've been really sad."Instead, they hear,
"My dad was sick and dying for weeks."
"My mom won't stop crying. Or get out of bed. Or stop wearing pajamas."
"I hate sleeping in the room with my dead brother's things."Well, I get it now.
Novartis, the drug company that researches and makes my Super Dangerous but Absolutely Necessary chemotherapy pills, flew a group of CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia) survivors and their own caregivers to a two-day summit in New Jersey last weekend. I will update the details of the summit in a later post. But, it was a great experience.
The weekend began with a yummy lunch at a fancy hotel. The Caregiver and I were the first ones of the CMLers to arrive. Then, others started coming in and it began.
"Hey, I'm Patti."
Some of the CMLers and caregivers. New Jersey, March 2014.
"Hey, I'm F. This is R. You a 'blood sister'?"
And the room filled up. It filled up and I look around and realized they all have cancer, pumping through their veins. Just. Like. Me.
After introductions and we figured out who were the CMLers and who were the caregivers, the conversation quickly switched to finding out which drug everyone is taking and the side effects they are dealing with.
Wow. This was awesome.
Don't get me wrong. It's not awesome that all these other people - some as young as 30, some who still want to get pregnant and start a family, some who are years into their diagnosis - all have cancer. No. That's not awesome at all. That sucks.
What was awesome was that they all get it. They understood how I felt. They've been there. And there was a whole room full of people. Just. Like. Me.
That was awesome.
So, yes, I get it now. When the kids head to Mikey's Camp and meet other grief survivors and are so excited to meet the kids who are just like them, I thought I understood. My father died when I was 9. There were no grief camps in the 1970s. All my friends still had both their parents. But I know what it's like to be 9 and have your daddy die. Then when my First Mike died, I thought that I could, that I did, understand how our kids were feeling. And maybe, hopefully, I did OK. But that's not the same.
It's not the same as walking into a room and seeing it fill up with people who truly get it. People with hopes, dreams, kids, caregivers, pains, struggles. Just. Like. Me. That is amazing.