The mission of Cancer Hope Foundation is to enhance the lives of people affected by cancer. Our energies are currently concentrated on Camp Keepsake, a program which offers a cost-free camp retreat for adult cancer patients/survivors, their children and friends. Camp Keepsake provides support in an energetic and fun atmosphere. The invitation is extended to family members, close friends, and caregivers, hoping that they too will benefit from their visit to Camp Keepsake.
Under special circumstances, persons with illnesses closely related to cancer, cancer patients/survivors in remission, and/or people with other situations are also welcomed wherein the Camp Keepsake directors deem attendance appropriate.
On January 13, 1998 an extremely close friend of mine passed away after cancer overtook her bodily functions. Jodi courageously fought for fifteen months as her life was overrun with repeated chemotherapy, blood work ups, transfusions, medications and treatments. When given an opportunity to go to Hawaii with her boyfriend (to spend precious time together), she was forced to decline due in part to concern about her health and her being too far away from her treatment facilities.
Six days prior to her passing, Jodi and her family were informed by her doctor that there wasn’t anything else medically he could do. The cancer had accelerated in Jodi’s brain and lungs beyond a treatable level. Subsequently, she was brought to her home where every effort was made to make her last days as comfortable as possible. Other family and friends came from throughout the country to say their good byes and spend their final quality time with this special lady. Unfortunately, due to the medication she was on and perhaps the spread of the cancer within her brain and lungs Jodi’s level of coherency continued to deteriorate rather quickly. As a result, this time spent with our loved one, although special, was seemingly lacking in a certain sense of quality. Even still, the love and support that surrounded her was of an indescribably enormous level.
During this time I came to the realization that even though anxieties were high, love and support flourished between all of us present. I felt an enormous amount of connection with many people whom I had barely, if ever, known previously and yet there was always someone there for a hug! In a sense, even though it was a devastatingly difficult time; it was also full of certain rewards. Jodi had been uniquely special and had had a wonderful quality of giving to and caring for others in a selfless manner. Consequently, I found it not the least bit surprising that many of her family and friends also possessed these same qualities.
After we all returned to our lives as best we could, a conscious effort was made to keep in touch with the people with whom we shared this tragedy. The suggestion was made by one of the family members that we should all try to get together once a year to remember and celebrate Jodi’s life. I found myself thinking of how lucky I was to have such support in my life and that it would be great if everyone who had to go through such a process could experience some of the same connection, love, and overall support. I began thinking what a wonderful experience it would have been for all of us to have gotten together previously to share such closeness with Jodi while she still was coherent and could have enjoyed it. Moreover, all of us could have helped and joined with her to celebrate her and our lives while she was still alive.
Although perhaps Jodi was the closest person to me whom I have lost to cancer, unfortunately she is but one of the many. At my relatively young age, I personally have closely known far too many people who have lost their fight to the disease. A number of others close to me are currently fighting against cancer and have been fortunate enough to still be survivors . . .
— Christopher Roos, Ed.D, Founder and President
What if there were a family style camp which welcomed cancer patients of all ages as well as their family and friends? Located in Southern California due to year round mild weather conditions along with proximate location of arguably three of the most prominent cancer treatment facilities (including Cedars Sinai, U.C.L.A., and the City of Hope), such a camp could offer an opportunity for cancer fighters to embrace life with those they love. This camp could offer certain medical attention and if needed, the patients could be transported either via ambulance or helicopter to the necessary medical facility. Consequently, the fear of being away from a treatment facility could become less of a concern for people suffering from cancer and they would be able to experience and enjoy some of the joys of life with their family and friends.
The camp could offer traditional activities of camps such as camp fires, crafts, swimming, or horseback riding (depending on the facility), different skits, dancing, singing, sports, playing, and other types of fun-filled events. In addition, the camp could offer different specialized discussions/seminars such as what to expect from certain types of chemotherapy, special diets, how the family and friends could help, and much more. Further, there could be various types of support and other groups but, even if someone didn’t want to attend one of the groups, he/she might still find someone to relate with and share common experiences. Between all of the different activities, there could be something for everyone. In fact, not only the cancer patients themselves, but also the family and friends might enjoy receiving a pleasantry such as a massage or manicure for, they too obviously have much to deal with.
Even though it might be considered a morbid subject, families could get together at the site to discuss certain things with professionals which at some point would perhaps need to be attended to. For instance, a conversation could be set up with a professional to discuss preferred memorial services and funeral arrangements. Hopefully such plans wouldn’t need be placed into action for another fifty plus years, but by preparing in this manner, the family would have little doubt or concerns about what the person may/may not have wanted. Another conversation might include who out of the family and friends would be willing and how much time they would give to commit to helping with things such as picking up prescriptions or taking the person to treatments. Such conversations could allow the opportunity for numerous concerns and loose ends to be addressed in a relaxed atmosphere with the help of professionals. Moreover, the patients could assert control over some aspects of their lives, which previously may not have been an option, by making some of their own decisions.
A time to live, a time to experience, a time to share, a time for love and a time to share. . . Just imagine the value if the cancer patient and their close family and friends could attend camp jointly. Overall, the patients themselves along with their family and friends could share the opportunity to connect in a special, memorable manner. They could take pictures, have fun, celebrate life to the extent possible, get personal matters in order, and as needed say good byes. They could also develop a network of support from others, including other patients, their families and friends, who may be going through similar experiences and have a need or desire to share their inner most feelings and emotions in a safe and comfortable environment.
Persons with illnesses closely related to cancer, cancer survivors, and/or people with other situations wherein Camp Keepsake directors deem attendance appropriate, are also welcome under special circumstances.