1. Please tell us about your time with Camp Simcha
We joined the Camp Simcha family in July 2017 in the days after Jake was diagnosed with Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. He was just 3 and a half, and our daughter Phoebe was only 10 months old. We had a rollercoaster 2.5 years of intensive treatment at GOSH and UCLH, with over 200 nights of inpatient stays, and over 40 blood transfusions. Our life was turned upside down but Camp Simcha were right beside us every step of the way – from our brilliant Family Liaison Officer Natalie and our art therapist Belinda, to retreats and day trips, surprise packages turning up at hospital or at home, meals when we were too tired to think about cooking, taxis when Jake’s blood counts were too low to risk taking him on public transport – we can’t even list all the brilliant things Camp Simcha provided or made happen to make us smile in a really difficult time.
2. What Camp Simcha meant to you: A favourite memory or highlight.
Retreat was a definite highlight for us – we were fortunate to do two in-person retreats and have so many brilliant memories including a helicopter ride, segways and fairy-tale carriage rides. Each time our kids were matched with brilliant big brothers and sisters, who even managed to get Jake to go independently on a day trip to a theme park when he had barely been away for us for a moment in the months before. It was a huge step in terms of his independence. One of our retreats was literally days after Jake had major surgery to remove his tumour (and a kidney too) – he spent time in intensive care after surgery and was so weak – we had originally said he wouldn’t be well enough to attend retreat. With just a couple of days to go before it was due to happen – we reached out to ask if Camp Simcha might be able to make space for us to join, and they literally dropped everything to make sure we were there and that Jake would be safe and medically supported and able to have fun – he wasn’t well enough to go on the outing that year so they bought in someone to do a Lego session just for him. We had the best weekend at a time when we really needed it.
3. Update: Where are you now?
Jake finished treatment in October 2019 in complete remission and thankfully remains in remission today. Aside from twice yearly check-ups at GOSH and some daily medication, you would have no idea any of it had happened. He’s now 9 years old (2023) and loves playing the drums, going to Cubs and following Man Utd and Borehamwood FC.
4. Why are you happy to be part of Camp Simcha alumni?
Saying goodbye to Camp Simcha was a big step for us – they continued to support us as we navigated the tricky process of re-entering the world after childhood cancer treatment. People think that once you ring the end of treatment bell everything goes back to normal but readjusting to life post-treatment is complex and emotional and it was great to have Camp Simcha alongside us throughout that process. We’re happy to be part of the alumni to thank them for all they have done for us, and to offer support and a story of hope to any other families who find themselves walking the same path we did. Camp Simcha did so much for us and we will always be their most vocal advocates and supporters.