PSYCHOSOCIAL IMPACTS OF A CAMPING EXPERIENCE FOR CHILDREN WITH CANCER AND THEIR SIBLINGS


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Abstract

SUMMARYBackground: We conducted a prospective two-group evaluation of pediatric cancer patients and their siblings regarding experiences and affective changes resulting from a 1-week summer camp experience.Methods: The patients and siblings were assessed prior to camp (Baseline), at the end of camp (Follow-up 1), and again 4-6 months later (Follow-up 2). Assessments included standardized tests for depressive affects, social competency, and a measure of pleasure and participation in camp activities.Results: Sixty-six children were assessed, including 31 (47%) patients and 35 (53%) siblings. Ages ranged from 7 to 17 years. Of the patient campers 19 (61%) had leukemia or lymphoma and 12 (39%) had solid tumors. Results showed marked changes in affective symptoms for patient campers over time (improvements), not shown by sibling campers. For patient campers these affective changes were not present immediately after camp, but were quite significant when measured 4-6 months later. Both patient and sibling campers reflected the same positive memories and pleasure in camp activities over time. For neither group did memories or pleasure fade over time. The camping experience did not have differential impacts on first time versus returning campers. Twelve campers (18% of sample) indicated suicidal ideation on the measure of depressive affects. They did well at camp and presented no special management issues.Conclusion: Expectations appear substantially different for patient versus sibling campers. The camping experience appeared to impact these groups differently, with patient campers impacted in ways not experienced by sibling campers.

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