Wisam was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 8 years old. His mother had noticed how increasingly exhausted he was all the time, and her instinct told her that something was terribly wrong. She went to doctor after doctor until she got the news she almost seemed to be know deep down: Wisam had a brain tumor.
Wisam started chemotherapy, followed by radiation therapy at the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC). Thankfully, he responded well to the treatment and beat his cancer, but the experience left him deeply emotionally scarred and withdrawn.
What Wisam did not know at the time, was that his illness would expose him to many experiences that he never otherwise would have had. For example, he was the first out of his five siblings to travel on a plane, and visit a city located 2,500km away from Amman, a city famous for its history and culture and one which would be a turning point in Wisam’s young life.
Now 10 years old, Wisam was one of 30 former KHCC pediatric patients chosen to take part in Dynamo Camp, a camp located near Florence in Italy’s Tuscany region. As part of the comprehensive care offered to KHCC patients, the King Hussein Cancer Foundation (KHCF) gives recovering pediatric patients from KHCC a chance to experience Dynamo Camp, a camp especially designed for children recovering from treatment. After all, the emotional well-being of our patients is just as important as their physical well-being, even after completing treatment. Indeed, the great time the children had at Dynamo Camp gave them truly unforgettable memories that they will cherish forever.
At the airport, Wisam sobbed uncontrollably as he said goodbye to his parents. The prospect of leaving his mother, who he was incredibly attached to, was almost too much for him to bear. It was during those moments of despair that something unexpected happened: an unexpected friendship was formed. Thaer, a volunteer chosen to be among the team of doctors, KHCF employees and other volunteers to accompany and supervise the children at Dynamo Camp, saw Wisam’s despair and resolved to help him feel better. Thaer’s amazing ability to connect with children helped him form a bond with Wisam almost immediately.
Wisam and Thaer, despite wildly different life experiences, shared something in common: they were both relentless in the face of adversity; Wisam, with his battle against cancer, and Thaer, with his effort to make the camp a life-changing experience for Wisam.
During the first few days at Dynamo camp, Wisam was consumed by thoughts of his family and cried whenever he thought of how much he missed them. He rejected all attempts by camp supervisors to persuade him to eat, and refused to join the other children in playing or other fun activities.
Wisam’s behavior did not discourage Thaer. He stayed by Wisam’s side the entire time, sometimes patiently sitting with him in silence, at other times talking to him gently. He managed to convince Wisam to take off the hat he had been wearing since he arrived at the camp, which served as a protective mechanism for Wisam to shield himself off from the world.
Eventually, Wisam felt confident enough to participate in some activities. The effect was profound. The once shy and withdrawn Wisam became more outgoing. His appetite returned. In fact, he insisted on having chocolate milk with his breakfast every day. He wanted to horse-ride with the other kids. He went swimming and had so much fun that he refused to get out of the pool until the supervisors promised that he could return to it the next day. When a clown arrived to entertain the children, Wisam asked him endless questions about why his nose was red or why his hair was so frizzy.
At Thaer’s firm but gentle encouraging, Wisam managed to make a lot of friends during his time at Dynamo Camp, but his deepest bond was with Thaer, who was older by 10 years. The rest of the stay at Dynamo Camp completely transformed Wisam. Even though he still missed his family, his homesickness gave way to not wanting to leave the camp so soon. He wanted the trip to last longer. Energy and vitality, so long missing from Wisam’s little body, returned to him full force. He wanted to see more, do more, and experience everything to the fullest.
From the first moment he landed back on Amman, Wisam’s mother and his siblings could not believe how different he seemed. Instead of running back into his mother’s arms, Wisam was preoccupied with excitedly introducing his family to his new friends. His mother recalls how happy she felt when Wisam came back from Dynamo Camp, “My child was reborn. He is no longer hiding and afraid of his own shadow. He’s so much more happy and full of life. I could not thank the King Hussein Cancer Foundation enough for giving my son this opportunity, and lots of fantastic memories to look back on.”
This story was last updated in 2012