Promoted as “a journey of hope, health and happiness,” the sixth annual day camp emphasizes fun, relaxation and support for its attendees, who have been diagnosed with cancer at one point in their lives. Created and funded by The Hospital Auxiliary, which is a part of Cartersville Medical Center, the program is scheduled for April 24 to 26 at Heritage Baptist Church, 1070 Douthit Ferry Road in Cartersville.
“The two things that really jump out at me is the spirituality of everybody and the sharing that we do,” Love said, referring to what he enjoys most about Camp Monarch. “Cancer patients can share things that you just can’t share even with your caregiver because they just haven’t experienced some of the things that we as cancer victims and survivors experience. It gives us the ability to understand, like in my second cancer I had 35 treatments of radiation on my throat and, quite frankly, I was feeling a little sorry for myself because my muscles will cramp from time to time. At the camp, I discovered that I probably have one of the mildest cases of throat muscle cramping of anybody that’s had radiation on their throat.
“So I discovered that, ‘Hey, don’t feel sorry, feel wonderful because you’ve been blessed. You have [cramping] occasionally. Some of them have it all the time.’ But we’re able to share things like that and understand where we fit in the scale of 1 to 10, whether we are on the bottom [at] one and just have very little [discomfort] or whether we’re up close to the top and have the most. But at the same time we’re also able to share with each other what we do to overcome the problems that we have from being a survivor.”
Love — a 69-year-old Cartersville resident and pastor of Fairmount United Methodist Church — was diagnosed with stromal cell sarcoma in 2004, then faced squamous cell carcinoma in 2008. Even though he battled cancer twice in the past decade, he said he has received many blessings along his journey.
“In Camp Monarch, we share not what happened to us but what we’ve got on the other end — the blessings,” he said. “I have yet to hear anybody stand up and share their ailment and their recovery that doesn’t talk about the blessings that the Lord gives them. So it’s a wonderful sharing time.”
In addition to keynote speakers Dr. Timothy Lin and the Rev. Michael Tutterow of Heritage Baptist Church, Camp Monarch will feature presentations by personal trainer Alesha Jackson and Jim Dunham, director of special projects for the Booth Western Art Museum; entertainment by vocalist Diane Coker, Cartersville Dances with the Stars and Heritage Sunshine Bell Ringers; a craft project; cake bingo; and a tour of Berry College.
“The wonderful women and men of the Cartersville Medical Center Hospital Auxiliary coordinate Camp Monarch each year for adult — 18 and older — cancer survivors,” said Ginger Tyra, director of marketing and public relations for Cartersville Medical Center. “Camp Monarch is a fun, relaxing daytime retreat that continues for three days and always includes motivational speakers, entertainment, a field trip, craft projects, exercise, good food and more ... all for a small registration fee of only $10. I’m really excited that one of the speakers this year is our own Dr. Tim Lin, who knows all too well about survivorship. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia two years ago.
“Camp Monarch allows participants to simply have fun and, for three days, not have to focus on treatment plans and doctor appointments. And, I think it’s pretty cool that physicians from The Hope Center and Northwest Georgia Oncology Center will join our guests for lunch two of the three days in a carefree environment.”
Camp Monarch’s initial event was spearheaded by auxiliary member Nancy Zerbe. A cancer survivor, Zerbe was inspired to offer a program tailored specifically for the Bartow community after learning about Northside Hospital’s overnight camp for cancer patients.
“I got the bug that we should have an adult cancer camp in Cartersville — but not a canned camp, not a package,” Zerbe said. “We needed a camp that was just designed for Cartersville and have it be different every year for Cartersville needs.
“... Camp Monarch is for [adult cancer] survivors and for us a cancer survivor could be somebody that was diagnosed today or somebody like myself who has been a survivor 13 years. The theory was to get the newly diagnosed patients with the person who has survived longer. You can see the benefit for the newly diagnosed but it is also a benefit for the survivor who’s survived for many years because it reminds you of what you went through and also helps you pay back.”
Echoing Love’s statements, Zerbe said another valuable component of Camp Monarch will be Sharing Stories, which will be led by Gail Wilkins April 24 from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. and Mitzi Oates April 26 from 11:30 a.m. to noon.
“The sharing of the stories are just very moving. ... It was either our first or second camp, the speaker got sick and ... we couldn’t get a substitute so we had this time allotted and everybody kept saying, ‘What are we going to do’ and I said, ‘Well, we’ll share stories,’” Zerbe said. “So I got up and told my story and then invited them to share their stories and they did. They told their stories and it helped break the ice too. People got to know each other.
“It’s very moving. We’ve had young women that have had cancer of the appendix and we’ve had ... cancer survivors of 32 years and someone that was just diagnosed two or three days before. And we have people that are going through treatment. We have one survivor that comes every year that [has] been going through treatment every year she’s come and she’s still fighting and making ground, which is very rewarding.”
To attend the camp, interested individuals 18 and older need to pay a $10 registration fee by calling 678-721-5560 on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The deadline to register is Friday, April 12.
For more information about Camp Monarch, call Zerbe at 678-602-0673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.