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Camp Colitiscope

I just want to say THANK YOU to Gaylyn from Gutless & Glamorous for this week's blog post. I wanted to help spread the word about Camp Oasis because of all the great things I've heard about it. If you are interested in learning more about it, you can visit the website here. To learn more about Gaylyn, be sure to follow her on her social media outlets: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to also check out her website!!! Thanks again, Gaylyn!


The summer before I entered high school I started experiencing symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and severe weight loss. At a time that is supposed to be new and exciting as a teenager, I was experiencing new feelings of hurt, pain and fear. I was in fear because as my symptoms started to intensify there was no getting around the fact that something was definitely wrong and getting worse progressively. I knew in the back of my mind that something was terribly wrong. I knew that my pain was increasing and so severe that I needed something to help me get my life back. Little did I know that was never going to be the case again. After a routine diagnostic group of tests I was diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s Disease. I had no idea what to expect, but in hind sight there was absolutely nothing that the doctors could have told me to prepare me for the journey ahead.
The beautiful Gaylyn from Gutless & Glamorous

Shortly after diagnosis, my pediatric gastroenterologist gave me a flyer for Camp Colitiscope. Camp Colitiscope was a camp for kids for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Kids like me he said. We (parents and myself) told him we would look into it. My parents were ecstatic. But I decided that day I was not going. I was skeptical and quite frankly didn’t want to go. I wasn’t a kid I was a teenager. Camp? Who camps? I’ll pass. Well my parents clearly had other plans. They kept saying, “I think this will be good”,” I think this is something that can help you”. “Gaylyn, you need to be open to this”. I however, did not think this was a good idea, I didn’t think it could help, I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was going through. I wasn’t really feeling it. However, in the end I didn’t really have a choice I was going to camp whether I wanted to or not. After all, parents know best right?

Back then in 1998 camp was only a weekend long.  So you are probably thinking, a weekend? Why couldn’t you handle a weekend? I was newly diagnosed. I was on extremely high doses of prednisone; I had just gotten out of the hospital. All of this Crohn’s stuff was entirely too new. I didn’t know what to expect. But, I arrive at camp.
Day 1. First day of camp, I cry. I am going to blame this on the heavy doses of prednisone I was on. I was very emotional and by emotional I mean all of the emotions. Angry, sad, mad, confused you name I would feel it within a matter of minutes. Haha. I would like to think it was because of prednisone that I couldn’t stop crying. But the truth of the matter is I was absolutely terrified. I was scared. We have introductions and I am still thinking to myself, these people have no idea what I am going through. I was newly diagnosed and not to mention afraid of being away from my parents. Night 1, cried myself to sleep and woke up drenched in sweat from a fever.

Day 2. Still crying. However, we had arts and crafts that day and canoeing. Arts and crafts were very relaxing and I found myself not wanting to leave the art room. Canoeing was next; I can’t swim so my counselor had to go with me.  We talked for hours on the lake while canoeing. I finally stop crying.  Night 2, didn’t cry but still had night sweats.

Day 3. Almost time to go home. But before leaving we have another support group with the entire camp. Everybody is talking and discussing life and how they cope and what they are going through.  I watched and I listened. I didn’t say anything. Everyone was sharing war stories and to be honest yes, some of it did scare me. However, I needed to hear it. After about an hour or so it was my turn to share how I was feeling. Oh no, here it comes again. I felt it coming on, I developed a lump in my throat and my eyes began to water. I tried to hold it back, after all I thought my crying spell was over, but I couldn’t hold it in. I started crying and crying hard.  While the waterworks were flowing, I managed to scream out “I am so scared!” and started to sob. I am not sure why I didn’t want to say that, maybe I was ashamed. I was scared to admit it; I was scared to say the very thing that I was feeling at that time. But I said it and it felt so good to admit it. It was finally off of my chest. I felt relieved. After I said it people came rushing over and started to embrace me and reassure me that everything was going to be okay. It was at that moment, I realized I was not alone.

There are really no words to describe the bond that is made at camp between kids and the impact that it can have on you. So I have stopped trying. But let me put it to you like this, I didn’t want to go to camp at the age of 14 I was scared and didn’t think anyone would understand. Now, almost two decades later, you can’t keep me away. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Camp Oasis (Camp Colitiscope was eventually changed to Camp Oasis) very soon after my diagnosis and once I became of age I started volunteering. I have seen Camp Oasis grow in so many ways and for the better. This camp makes it possible for kids living with this illness to come together and have fun, that otherwise might not be possible. It amazes me how each case of Crohn's Disease and/or Ulcerative Colitis is different in the medical diagnosis, but in life we each go through very similar situations. We each have to deal with the embarrassment of talking about such a difficult disease, the anxiety of what will happen on a day to day basis, and the uncertainty and fear of what the future may hold. Camp makes us laugh, cry (some more than others), and smile. At camp we may get frustrated, we may get upset, but most importantly we do it together and we build each other up in the process.  

So in the end, my parents were absolutely right, this camp has helped me in more ways than I can imagine, it opened my eyes to listen and understand and has been vital in helping me learn to cope with a chronic illness. Camp has provided me with the support system that you so desperately need when living with chronic illness. Camp Oasis was and still continues to this day to be good for me.

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