Blog  My Ovarian Cancer Journey: Surviving Through Summer Camp

My Ovarian Cancer Journey: Surviving Through Summer Camp

by Vanessa Ehrlich, OSRUI Segel (Faculty)

Each summer I volunteer to serve on the faculty of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Olin Sang Ruby Institute Camp for two weeks.  In November of 2018, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, which made going to camp unpredictable for the coming summer. As I spoke with my Sharsheret social worker I quickly knew that I should start planning for the future.  Sharsheret gave me the resources, support and encouragement that helped me come to this realization.

As my treatment which included chemo, surgery, and more chemo progressed I realized that going to camp was my number one short term goal. I was determined to serve on the faculty for summer 2019. I completed my final chemo treatment just shy of two months before I was scheduled to leave for camp and I knew most likely there would not be MUCH hair on my head for camp. I am grateful to my supportive gyn-onc for allowing me to go to camp and understanding how important it was for my emotional health to achieve this goal.

One tradition we have at camp, specifically in my unit, is Facepaint Friday. This usually happens right before Shabbat and this year I went in full force. Or rather I went in with a full bald head and allowed the campers to paint an Israeli flag on my head.  No one batted an eye, well maybe some of the counselors did, but everyone insisted it looked great.

The rejuvenation I felt from being at camp and working in a space where I do my best work, is equivalent to a thousand naps and I didn’t even realize until I got home how much it did for my nefesh, my soul.

Continue reading on the Sharsheret website.


In addition to serving on OSRUI Faculty each summer, Vanessa Ehrlich is the Director of Lifelong Learning at Makom Solel Lakeside in Highland Park, IL.  In the photo above, Vanessa is pictured (center, in blue dress) with members of Makom Solel Lakeside at OSRUI this summer.