It is a struggle for people who live with medical challenges, but even more so for children.
Megan Longoria was diagnosed with a blood disorder when she was 10.
“My immune system was attacking my red blood cells. I got really really sick, and I had pneumonia. As a child, I was just kind of like, what’s wrong with me, like why don’t I feel better, because I normally get the flu and like a week later you’re fine.”
Not long after she began treatment at Texas Children’s Hospital, her team of oncologists encouraged her to attend Camp Periwinkle. The camp is open to children being treated for cancer or a blood disorder, and is located in Burton, just outside Brenham.
“I did not want to go at all. People are going to make fun of me, I have short hair. When I remember being at the drop off with the bus, I was like so mad at them. And then a week goes on and I didn’t want to come home.”
She quickly discovered that she wasn’t the only one who was sick.
Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, a pediatric oncologist with Texas Children’s Hospital, serves as medical director at Camp Periwinkle. She says the kids include their treatment with the many camp activities.
“Some of the kids will be on very intensive chemo therapy, where they’ve just gotten out of the hospital after five days of horrible treatment, others may just be on pills. We actually give some chemo therapy at camp. They pop into our office, which is the medical center, and the chow hall and everything else. They pop in, get some candy, get an injection of chemo and out they go.”
Dr Dreyer says the Periwinkle experience helps them deal with their illness.
The Periwinkle Foundation – Camps, Arts and Survivor Programs. Filmed in 2012.
“The stronger the patient and the more optimistic the patient, the more likely they are to tolerate the treatment. And if they’re stronger and they’re empowered, they’re much more likely to be able to receive the medicines they need to receive, tolerate them and keep getting through their treatment ’til they’re done. So that in my personal opinion is one of the biggest roles in what happens in their long term outcome.”
Megan Longoria has been in remission for longer than she can remember, and is now a camp counselor.
“My hope is that I can reach at least one camper, and make them feel that it’s okay that I’m sick or that my sister or brother is sick, and everything is gonna be okay and we’re gonna have a great week where nobody cares, nobody judges us. I just hope that I can facilitate them feeling that in some way.”
You can find more information on Camp Periwinkle at www.periwinklefoundation.org.