Campers began to line up and check in for general swim. I pulled out my Chatelaine magazine again after I surveyed the beach situation. My three were still fully engaged in their sand castle building. I flipped through the magazine and found my page again. As I read, campers continued to file into the lakefront.
I startled when the lifeguards blew their whistles and the campers quickly found their “buddies”. It was so ingrained now, it was second nature. I saw several of the campers barely take their eyes off their comics or books as they grasped their partner’s hand and held them high in the air. We were into the second week of camp, so it would be expected.
After it was established that no one was missing, general swim began in earnest. I went back to reading my magazine, but, of course, it was not for long.
I startled again when, Deer Hut camper, Nolan, tapped me on the shoulder. He had managed to sneak up from behind me, undetected. I looked over at him and immediately noticed the tears pooling in his eyes and threatening to spill over. His lower lip trembled.
I gently took his hand in mine. “What’s wrong, Nolan?”
“I think I have cancer.” Nolan responded, barely above a whisper.
“Oh, buddy! Why would you think that?” I asked. Nolan looked down as he opened his hand and I loosened my grasp on it. Blood was streaked across his palm.
“Where is the blood coming from?” I asked Nolan, trying to keep the alarm in my voice down.
“Nose bleed.” Nolan responded as a tiny trickle of bright red blood slowly emerged from his right nostril, on cue.
“Do you get those a lot?” I asked.
Nolan shrugged and with that the tears spilled from his eyes. “This is my first nose bleed,” he said.
“Why do you think it’s cancer?”
“There was a boy at my school in grade five who had a bunch of nose bleeds. He had leukemia and he died right before summer holidays last year.” Nolan explained.
“Ohhhh.” I nodded. “That would make me very nervous too.” I said as my eyes flitted over his skin doing a quick assessment. His skin was pink. There was no evidence of petechia or bruising which would be expected with leukemia. “Let’s first stop the nose bleed, OK buddy?”
Nolan nodded bravely as I showed him how to apply pressure across the bridge of his nose.
“Did you know that there are many reasons why your nose might bleed?” I asked as I held his nose firmly.
“There are?” Nolan and frowned and took over holding the pressure.
“Oh, for sure. Of course if you get punched in the nose, that’s obvious. But you can get a nosebleed if the air is too dry, if you have a cold or infection, if you pick your nose, aggressive nose blowing, allergies can cause…” I rambled on.
“Wait. Do you think sticking a pencil up my nose would do it?” Nolan asked with obvious relief.
“Ummm. Yes Nolan. That would be trauma to the nasal membranes.”
“Oh thank God!” Nolan giggled.
“You stuck a pencil up your nose?” I narrowed my eyes, looking at him.
“I was trying to show my friends a magic trick where you inhale a pencil up your nose and then it comes out your ear. But I didn’t do it right.”
“I definitely need more practice.” Nolan admitted.
“I would strongly council against that.” I urged Nolan. “Maybe consider another hobby. Like card tricks. Cards are much safer.” Nolan shrugged and happily wandered back to his towel, still holding pressure to his nose.
Another survey of my charges, and all looked well with the world. I buried my head back in my magazine.