Attending summer camp as a pediatric cancer patient may provide benefits into adulthood

15 Aug 2018 1:57 PM | Brandon Davenport (Administrator)

Digest commentators: Gaya Narendran and Dr. Fiona Schulte, The University of Calgary

Specialized summer camps have been established as an environment where children faced with chronic illnesses, such as pediatric cancers, may find a place to have fun in a safe way. Currently, few studies have investigated the influence of attending specialized summer camps on children with cancer. Reports indicate that attending camp positively influences camper’s quality of life by affecting factors such as mood, and social interaction skills. The role of specialized summer camp in the long-term psychosocial development of children affected by cancer has not been addressed until recently.

Beckwitt (2014) investigated the potential for long-term influences of attending specialized camp programs for children who had been affected by cancer. Twenty-three Adults Surviving Childhood Cancers (ASCCs) were involved in the study.  ASCCs face ongoing psychosocial challenges into adulthood. During time of treatment, they are often isolated from social interactions and consequently often develop social adjustment problems that have the potential to continue into adult life.

ASCCs were identified as having been diagnosed with cancer at 1 to 18 years of age. The study consisted of a demographic survey and illness narrative interviews. Illness narratives were carried out using in-depth interview techniques in order to gain understanding and insight into how ASCCs view their camp experience. As a result from these interviews, three themes were identified: (1) attending camp provided normalcy, (2) meaningful camp experiences, and (3) access to information. This investigation reports that ASCCs recognized camp as a setting in which they could feel “normal” and relate with other children facing similar challenges. Furthermore, ASCCs’ responses indicated that camp provided a source of long-lasting relationships facilitated by the meaningful experiences felt while attending camp. ASCCs also reported that they were given informational support to learn and discuss potential physical, emotion, and cognitive late-onset effects of their cancer during camp. Together, the results of this investigation indicate that specialized childhood camps play a significant role in ASCCs’ survivorship.

This study provides strong testimonies for the effectiveness and importance of the childhood camp experience from multiple ASCCs. However, due to the small sample size and the similarity of participants, such that most were female and Caucasian, these results cannot readily be generalized. Future research utilizing objective measures, such as psychological assessments and questionnaires, are needed to establish the benefits of attending specialized summer camp programs for ASCCs.

Why I liked this article

This article works to fill a gap in the literature in a way that is easily understood. The included quoted testimonies that were appropriate and supported the conclusions they made. The quotes were also insightful into the emotional and social challenges of ASCCs but also work together with the author’s conclusions to illustrate a strong and complete image of the cancer experience and the role of camp in easing the challenges of this experience.

Article: Beckwitt, A. E. (2014). Childhood Cancer Camps Their Role in Adults Surviving Childhood Cancers Lives. Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, 1043454213515335.

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