Camping & Chemo…Don’t do it.


I’m only a little over two weeks out of my last chemo, and yet my children already start school next week.  I can’t believe it.  So, in an effort to show them one fun night, because I’ve been so sick all summer, I have come up with the brilliant idea to go camping.  Yep.  Me.  This is my idea.  They have never been before, and I grew up camping a lot with my dad, so I think this will be fun for them.

As we arrive at our campsite, I’m thrilled because it looks amazing with our lot backing up to a wooded area in which the children can play.  The kids jump out of the car just as I see the sign, that says, “Be careful.  Poison Oak.”  What?  In a campground?  Seriously?  I begin to look around our site behind us.  Crud.   It is everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  And trying to tell a 9, 5 and 2 year old not to touch it is like asking them not to touch the candy in a candy store.  Impossible.   I’m already officially on hyper mom alert mode within 5 minutes of being here.  Standing guard over the wooded area.  Saying, “Don’t touch” every five seconds.  I think I already need vodka.

While, I’m standing guard, Chris sets up our two tents.  Though he hasn’t really camped before, he assures me that he has got it and has brought everything we need.  Well, except for the fact that he didn’t bring the tarp to put under the tents, and instead of bringing air mattresses for us, he bought only me a camping pad.  Which means I will be sleeping on a 1 inch thick hard foam pad, and everyone else with just a sleeping bag.  Still, he has tried.  Definitely, I need some vodka.

As the day progresses, the children play and have fun. We even go for a little walk and wade in a stream.  By late afternoon,  other people from the camp begin to return to their tents.  We have been surrounded by maybe 40 or so pup tents throughout the day and are curious as to whom they belong.  It turns out to be over 50 French young adults that look to be about college age.  They are very nice and at one point even try to give us their groceries.  They tell us that they have been here camping all week and are leaving in the morning so they need to get rid of their food.

All is going well,  until Chris lights up the fire.  Over the course of the next few hours as we try and keep our kids from the poison oak, we burn the turkey burgers, end up eating just buns with ketchup and mustard, the kids won’t leave the fire pit alone, and I’m convinced one is going to fall in.   Patrick even touches the grill just to see how hot it is.  And then cries.  Of course he does.  Now, I am in super stressed out mommy mode!  I need vodka.  We finally call it a night around 9pm, because Chris and I can’t take it anymore.  This is so not fun.  I don’t know what I was thinking.

The kids fall asleep as does Chris.  I, however, cannot on my one inch foam pad with a broken and depleted body from chemo.  I feel as though I am sleeping on rocks.  I am miserable.  I finally drift off at 2am.

About an hour later, I awake to flashes of light everywhere and noises that I can’t make out.  It scares me for a minute, and  I have to work up the courage to look out of the tent to see what is happening.

Is it an animal?  No.  Is it aliens?  No.  Is it a Vodka Van?  No. It is ALL 50 FRENCH STUDENTS awake with their flashlights, taking down their tents, dragging their suitcases and loading them up into big vans.  Really?  I realize they told us they were leaving in the morning, but 3am does not count.  It does not count.

After listening to them pack up for the next hour,  I can’t go back to sleep.  I’m freezing, and my body aches.  I’m getting weaker by the minute.  I finally wake Chris up.  He is in the the second tent with Patrick.  I tell him he has to move Patrick and himself into the big tent with William and Emma.  I am getting in the van.

And I do.  In the wee hours of the morning, I take my pillow and my blankets and lie down in the back of the minivan curled up like a baby.  Miserable beyond belief.  What was I thinking?  Camping?  Bad idea.  Really bad.

I finally get maybe 2 hours of not great sleep waking up to the sounds of laughter from my children.  Normally, I love this sound, but today, I can’t handle it.  I get out of the van, and although I try to suck it up for the sake of the family, I can’t.  I just can’t.  My body is screaming for rest.  It is not ready to be out in the world.  I tell Chris that I am so sorry, but we need to leave.  Now.  I know it is not the plan, but he can see the look in my eyes.  I am wretchedly dazed.  He packs everything up while I watch.  I am too weak to help.  We get in the van, pull away from the campsite, and are back home by 830 in the morning.  Yes, 8:30am.  I walk straight into our bedroom,  crawl into bed, and sleep for the next 5 hours.

Camping and chemo.  Don’t do it.  Just don’t.  Unless you bring vodka.

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Author: jillmbarber

I'm a full time mommy to three young children and a part time commercial actor. In March of 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is my battle. This is my story.

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