Maggie Howard, of Magnolia, Texas, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 13. She underwent 14 weeks of chemotherapy before surgery at MD Anderson under the expertise of Valerae Lewis, M.D., professor, Orthopedic Oncology. In October 2018, she shared her personal testimonial at A Conversation With a Living Legend® San Antonio, inspiring hundreds of donors to raise nearly $1 million for pediatric summer camps at MD Anderson.
Summer camps at MD Anderson have had a profound effect on me, not just in my cancer journey, but also in my everyday life. In 2016, I attended my first sleepaway camp at Camp AOK. I had just finished chemotherapy two weeks prior and had two weeks left until I was supposed to start my freshman year of high school. I was still in a wheelchair most of the time but as it turns out, I didn't touch my wheelchair the entire time I was at camp.
In 2017, I was able to attend Camp Star Trails with my sister. This was three months after my second surgery, which I was still quite sore from. But all of that went away when I saw that ropes was one of the group activities I could choose at the camp.
When the cabins split into our respective groups, I realized I was one of just three girls in ropes. We spent the first day learning the safety procedures we had to follow, which helmet to wear, how to put a harness on correctly, how to tie knots. Then, we got to the fun part ― a two-story-high rock wall connecting to a zip line. Our activity leader asked who wanted to climb up first. I expected one of the many teenage boys standing next to me to run up, but no one volunteered. I volunteered and went down the line four more times.
The benefits of these camps are numerous. Most of the children who have either been through or are in treatment aren't able to do activities like the ones these camps provide. Some of the people that I was used to seeing in the halls of a hospital were completely different at camp. It is so important to have a fun, safe environment away from the appointments, chemotherapy and the hospital to let kids be kids. At both camps, I met people who know what I mean when I talk about chemotherapy or what it's like to spend a week in the hospital. None of my school friends can relate to that.
I want every kid who has to go through cancer treatment to be able to experience the freedom, confidence and care-free fun that I found at camp.
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