Abi Marin, 17, has been supported by Camp Simcha since she was diagnosed with facial tumours at the age of six. Here she tells us how the charity’s input has helped her accept her condition and get to a better place.

“I used to consider myself an average child but then I was diagnosed with a facial tumour at the age of six – and as my diagnosis and treatment started to take over my life, I had to accept I am not average, I’m above average.

My condition has meant I have multiple operations each year, alongside all the doctor’s appointments. It has also left me with issues like chronic pain which my doctors can’t relieve.

When I started this journey, I was trying to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to do the things my friends and classmates could do. I felt very angry, depressed and it impacted my confidence that I couldn’t be like my friends. My self-esteem was really wrecked and made it hard for me to want help or to accept my situation.

But Camp Simcha came into my life and showed me that everything is possible. Anything my friends could do, I could do as well – just in Camp Simcha style.

One of the most life-changing aspects of their support was the therapeutic art sessions they provided for me from the age of seven; this is where my passion for art began. My Camp Simcha art teacher Belinda and I created wonderful pieces which we have even sold to raise money for charity. We painted literally everywhere, from my bedroom to a garden wall. It has been a great outlet for my feelings – and really helped cheer me up when the pain was getting me down. But mostly, the experience it gave me, as well as the bond I have built with Belinda, really helped me gain confidence. That gave me the courage to create my Instagram page @braveartist2005 where I document my art, photography and health. When I was younger I could never have pictured myself doing this.

I had so many other great experiences with Camp Simcha, like going away on nine family retreats, but also children’s retreats with other kids of my age who were also chronically ill.

One of my favourite memories was going on kids’ retreat and Camp Simcha letting me stand up in front of everyone and sing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen. Thinking back, it was moments like this which have helped give me the confidence to write this article and flourish into myself.

Another incredible and life-changing experience was going away in the summer to Camp Simcha’s sister organisation in the USA. Going away without my family was something I never thought I would be able to do because of my complex health issues, but once again Camp Simcha made it possible. I went along with my Camp Simcha Big Sister volunteer, and there were medical staff on hand and an adult dedicated to making sure I was ok, which meant my family in London, my medical team and I all felt confident that I would be safe.

When I got there, I met SO many other people who also have chronic illnesses which made me feel less isolated. One of my close friends today is actually someone I met on camp in America who helped me feel less alone and more confident with my situation.

Over the past few years, having Camp Simcha as a constant presence in my life reminding me that I COULD do things, just in a different way, really empowered me to come out the other side of what I was going through – and to feel so much more powerful.