Camp brings teens battling cancer together


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 27 at 6:40 PM

TRAVIS COUNTY -- Having cancer can be hard on adults. Just imagine how devastating it can be for a child. Doctors diagnosed Emrene Sadek with ovarian cancer when she was 13 years old.   

“I had a 10-pound tumor,” Emrene said. “The tumor had pushed all my organs to the side and just completely took up my pelvic cavity.”

Now 16, the young woman from Houston is winning her battle against the disease. 

This week she, along with about 20 other Texas teens, will spend a week on the shores of Lake Travis having the time of their lives and taking part in activities that bring smiles to the faces of kids brought together by cancer.

“We have some kids who are recently diagnosed. We have some kids in the middle of treatment and, wonderfully, just through treatment,” said Jennifer Wisler of the Sunshine Kids Foundation.

This is the 23rd year for the Sunshine Kids Texas Hill Country adventure. The non-profit's goal is to provide an opportunity to put hospitals and health worries aside and just enjoy the simple pleasure of being a kid.

“What we like to give them back is a little bit of their childhood that the cancer has taken away from them, the opportunity to just be a kid and just have fun,” Wisler said.

It's an opportunity Jairo Pina welcomes.

“I didn't know it could happen to me,” he said.

Pina is battling bone cancer and building a unique bond with the other campers.

“It's always nice meeting other people that go through similar things that you do so you have similar understandings with other people,” Pina said.

“You see a lot of them break out of their shell,” said Kendra Alanis, a nurse at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio who’s volunteering at the camp. “They have a great time. They sort of loosen up and become more social.”

“We can joke about our times in the hospital, you know. We can joke about treatments and different stuff that's similar, so it's nice to be able to be able to connect and communicate with them about that,” Sadek said. 

Over the next few days the teens will continue to get visits from groups like Travis County Deputies and STAR Flight. They'll learn they're truly not alone and to always look for sunshine on the darkest days.

“Stay strong and have faith,” Pina said. “There's always light at the end of the tunnel.”

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