Just before her 11th birthday Pippa Buck was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
Now 14, Pippa, from Dorset, is nearly at the end of her long and difficult treatment. Throughout, her family has been supported by Camp Simcha – this summer she attended a family retreat as well as a two-week summer scheme run by the charity’s sister organisation in America.
Here Pippa shares her thoughts on her Camp Simcha summer.
“I always know it’s going to be so much fun when I spend time with Camp Simcha, but also that I am with people who understand.
“I had already been on a children’s retreat last December, so it was really nice to see some of the friends I had made when I got to family retreat; I also liked meeting new people.
“We did a great outing to Go Ape and a helicopter ride and there were so many fun things for us to do; it was such a good distraction from hospitals and treatment. It’s also good because you are with people who understand if you have a day when you don’t feel great. They get it and just know.
“A few weeks after retreat I went to Camp Simcha USA in the Catskills Mountains with my Camp Simcha UK volunteer and other children the charity supports. It is the most incredible experience, like nothing you could imagine.
“You get off the flight and you feel a bit groggy but then as soon as you get there all the volunteers are dancing and singing you off the coach and it just feels like such a happy place.
“There are some activities with counsellors leading them – and some just for kids. We also had an opportunity to share our story with the other kids. You can tell as much or as little as you like, but it can feel really good to have that space to speak about it.
“There are loads of amazing activities and they really encourage you to try new things – but they also let you get on with it so that you feel independent. Both trips were such a great distraction from everything that is happening medically, especially in America where I knew I had two weeks where I didn’t have to have any treatment. It was a real relief and a break from what I have been going through.
“Initially after my diagnosis I had to stay in hospital and then I had over six months of intense chemotherapy. There were also lots of blood tests and tranfusions.
“Now I have to go to hospital for treatment once a month, and then I have steroids after. Once every ten weeks I have to have a lumbar puncture. But I finish treatment at the end of September, so I am nearly there.
“This summer I really embraced the experience with Camp Simcha. I have made some really good friends who I message with regularly – which feels like a really good support.
“Coming back, I felt mentally stronger which I hope will help me through the next couple of months.”