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Committee Member Spotlight: Get to Know Duncs

1618531_10153764643990285_534268562_nWhy do I Kesem? I Kesem for all kids who have had to deal with a parent’s cancer. At Relay for Life my freshman year at UW-Madison, I told friends I was doing relay for “mankind,” and for every family ever affected by cancer. I’d been fortunate enough to not have any connections to cancer at that age. However, less than a year from that day, that all changed.

On a Monday night in April, I received a phone call from my mom that would forever change my life. When I first saw that my mom was calling me, I thought it was just going to be a normal phone conversation between my mom and I. When she told me that my stepdad, Dave, had collapsed in the emergency room and was being flown to Rochester, Minn., I had no idea what to think.

At that point that is all she knew, so she wanted to get more information before we made a decision on whether I would go to Rochester. When my momlearned that Dave’s health was in a really bad state, I knew I had to go to Rochester. My random roommate in the dorms, Kim (aka Tigger), and I took a floor mate’s car to Tigger’s hometown to get her car and make the long drive to Rochester.

Since I lived the farthest away, I was the last to arrive at the hospital. When I got there, my mom told me they had found tumors all over Dave’s brain. She told me that even if the doctors performed surgery to remove the tumors he would more than likely be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. We knew that my stepdad, who’d been known to always have a smile on his face, never would have wanted that, and our whole family made the difficult decision to let him go.

My family hadn’t even thought about the word “cancer” since Dave had beat Stage 3 Melanoma back in 2007. So when we learned about the multiple tumors encompassing his brain, we were completely caught off guard. At that point in my life, I didn’t know anyone else who shared a similar experience and I wasn’t sure who to talk to about it. I didn’t know how to talk about it.

It wasn’t until the empowerment ceremony at the overnight training for counselors that I realized that Kesem is more than just a one-week summer camp for kids. Camp Kesem provides a support system for everyone involved. We truly are one big Kesem family.

I can honestly say that losing my stepdad was one of the toughest things that I have ever had to go through. Knowing the emotions that I experienced at 19 when losing my stepdad, I can’t begin to imagine the emotions that go through a younger child’s mind when their parent is diagnosed with cancer or loses their battle to this horrible disease.

These Kesem campers are the strongest kids I have ever met, and my first week at camp this past summer was hands down one of the best weeks of my life.  I cannot wait for CKUW 2014!