Home » Cancer patients develop can-do attitude at summer camp
May 28, 2008 – Baylor College of Medicine
by Dana Benson
For many children, summer camp is an annual tradition. Kids with cancer – even those who are physically disabled because of their treatment or illness – don’t have to be excluded from this rite of passage.
Camp is an impactful experience for children battling cancer that can instill in them the can-do attitude it takes to deal with their disease, said Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, associate professor of pediatrics – hematology and oncology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“I always tell people that camp is the single most important thing we do next to treating the kids’ cancer,” said Dreyer, who serves as medical director for Camp Periwinkle, a week-long summer camp that promotes emotional healing for patients at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, a major component of the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at BCM.
“When children don’t have the right attitude, they often do not tolerate therapy well, and they may not have a good perspective on life as long-term survivors,” Dreyer said.
“In that case, cancer becomes something that, instead of being a limited illness, affects them for the rest of their lives in a negative way,” she said.
Camp Periwinkle is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer. It is available to patients at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center between the ages of 7 and 15 and their siblings, and it is completely free for families.
The relationships that are built at camp are very strong because they are built on the same foundation, Dreyer said.
“Each one of them has faced life-threatening illness, and they draw strength from each other and from the counselors,” she said. “These children come from all sorts of different backgrounds, but at camp the playing field is equal. It doesn’t matter that they have cancer and are undergoing treatment. They’re just like everybody else, and there’s nothing they can’t do.”
Often parents feel apprehension about sending their sick children off to camp, but Dreyer said they should feel secure knowing there is a full medical staff, often the same doctors who treat their children at the cancer center.
Camp Periwinkle is a program of the Periwinkle Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children, young adults and families who are being treated for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, a center of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.
The foundation got its name from the perennial Vinca minor, the periwinkle plant. It is the source of one of the most common chemotherapy agents used – vincristine.
The Periwinkle Foundation develops and provides programs that positively change the lives of children, young adults and families who are challenged by cancer and other life threatening illnesses and are cared for at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Each year more than 4,000 children are touched by Periwinkle programs Camp Periwinkle, Camp YOLO, Family Camp, the Long Term Survivor Program and the Arts & Creative Writing Program which culminates each year in a traveling exhibition of art by children touched by cancer and blood disorders. Through camping, recreational and arts programming, The Periwinkle Foundation provides opportunities for these special children and their families to heal emotionally, lead fuller lives and become stronger survivors. With the generous help of our friends and supporters in the community, The Periwinkle Foundation changes lives for life. Learn more at www.periwinklefoundation.org.