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‘It felt great to be a child again – and I don’t just mean for Louisa – I mean for all of us.’ – Louisa’s time at Family Camp

In 2017, Louisa was diagnosed with leukaemia at just 12 years old and needed a stem cell transplant to survive. Thankfully, she had a match, but the treatment and recovery took its toll on the whole family. Here, Karine, Louisa’s mum, tells us how much Family Camp made such a difference.

Transplant and recovery were incredibly difficult for us all. It was a really tough year. During her treatment, Louisa spent a year and a half either in bed or in hospital. She spent six of those months in protective isolation and couldn’t go to public places or see other children.  

Coming back from isolation

Louisa suddenly stopped interacting with children at a stage when her social development was very important. She missed over a year of schooling too, so that period of time was very challenging for her – for us all, in fact. As a family we suffered from a kind of post traumatic shock. 

At school, strong friendship bonds are often developed during Year 7 and 8, so after her treatment it was difficult for Louisa to get those years back. When she returned to school, many friendship groups had already formed and it had an impact on Louisa’s confidence and social development.

It was during a visit from a community nurse that we were shown a leaflet about Family Camp, and told about the benefits it can offer children with health challenges.

Wonderful to all do something together

It looked perfect so I applied for the family and we secured our places. It was amazing and so wonderful to all do something together. My husband and Louisa’s sister all joined in on all the activities. We really let go and had a fantastic time. It felt great to be a child again – and I don’t just mean for Louisa – I mean for all of us!

There was so much fun and laughter, and we also met other families, joked with them, chatted and exchanged numbers. The parents we met had been through similar experiences, worries and issues that we have, and meeting them made a big difference. 

Louisa made so many friends who could share similar experiences. Anyone in Louisa’s life will never fully know what she has been through. They can be supportive, and empathise, but not truly understand. She found this understanding at camp and she made strong connections with people – they all keep in touch now.

Never imagined camp to be so good

If I’m honest, I really didn’t want family camp to end. I could have easily stayed another week. We all loved it. The whole family. We dived into everything. It was a much-needed week of fun and laughter. I never imagined camp was ever going to be as good as it was for all of us. It was unforgettable.

If you’re interested in attending Family Camp, visit anthonynolan.org/familycamp

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