Sunday, March 29, 2015

Caribbean Cruise 2015

By Monica Vest Wheeler

When the first Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp cruise set sail in February 2012, I wasn’t sure what to expect in more ways than one. It was my very first cruise, and this was the first time 40-plus individuals from around the country who had attended Stroke Camp gathered in one location.

It wasn’t a Stroke Camp: no drum circle, meal-time skits, support group sessions or Saturday night entertainment. However, it had all the ingredients of what makes Stroke Camp so special: the people, friendship, laughter and love. Meeting new people and creating new memories together were hallmarks of this new adventure.

 When a second cruise was announced for February 2015, my husband Roger and I were onboard immediately. I have serious Stroke Camp withdrawal during the winter months, and I had to have my “fix” and see familiar faces and meet survivors and caregivers I hadn’t yet had the privilege to meet.

It was a joy to be “crazy Monica” from camp, yet also be Monica on vacation. I had no Stroke Camp responsibilities — though I love performing those duties to help run a weekend camp. 

However, nothing keeps me from my camera, so my digital companion had no vacation.

Gathering at the Orlando hotel the night before the cruise was truly like old home week, filled with hugs and reunions and introductions. It was just so much fun to talk and interact and laugh. I was quickly reminded that the people I see at camp were the same ones I was revisiting in the cruise setting, back in 2012 and this time around. We’re just ordinary people getting through life the best way we can.

Traveling with Stroke Camp executive director Marylee Nunley and husband John is always a treat. Marylee must have been a cruise director in a past life because she’s the queen of welcoming everyone, sharing the introductions and encouraging everyone to simply relax and have a good time. That’s what she was doing herself. Yes, she was on vacation, too, her only job to have fun … and keep John entertained and happy … :-)

To be continued

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