Jeriel was 11 years old when he was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma at Inova Fairfax Children’s Hospital. He was introduced Special Love through Camp Fantastic at age 13 and attended for 2 years in a row, even though he was skeptical at first:
“I did not know how I would feel going to a ‘cancer camp.’ It is so difficult already to be labeled as a cancer patient, I thought going to a Cancer camp would not help me get my mind off the battle I was going through (emotionally and physically).”
That skepticism soon turned to acceptance – and gratitude – as he redefined his image of being “the bald kid with cancer.”
When I arrived you could see that although each and every one of us were fighting our own battles, everyone was excited/happy to be there. All of us had something in common that we could relate to. It was easy to build relationships and have fun as no one was focused on how we looked like (the majority of us had no hair, which felt normal and okay). I got to not only make friends but also join others in their fight with their diagnosis.”
Like many campers, Jeriel also wanted more opportunities to join his camp community and joined our Winter Ski Weekend for teens and young adults. His family also spent several years attending Ski Family Weekend at Canaan Resort where they treasured their time together as a family. That became increasingly important as Jeriel’s cancer journey was far from over. He relapsed four times and underwent multiple surgeries and treatments.
“After battling most of my life with this disease I am forever grateful that joining Camp Fantastic gave me the confidence to keep fighting the battle.”
Jeriel is now 24 years old, happily married, and the father of a soon-to-be one-year-old son. He credits camp with helping him get through and he is eager to give back as a volunteer to help other young cancer patients.