When Someone You Love Has Cancer


Image: Amazon.co.uk

My friend’s daughter (5 years old) has a nightly ritual: every evening after dinner, she grabs a book and goes into the bathroom to do her business. I can’t begin to tell you how jealous I am of her power bowels (thanks again for nothing, constipating-producing hot-flash medication).

This is how she rolls a good six out of seven nights – lucky little girl. She usually reads out loud, sings, and grunts (noisily).  Always productive.  Literally.

So, last week, when I was a guest for dinner, I noticed she grabbed her book and headed toward Pottyville. I asked what book she was taking. She casually said, “The book about Cancer Cells” (as if it were People Magazine).

The real name of the book is “When Someone You Love Has Cancer” by Alaric Lewis.

It may be purchased at your local bookstore or http://www.abebooks.com

This book happens to be one of my very favorite books that I used professionally (and now personally) to talk with children about cancer.

Why?  Well, let me count some of the ways:

  1. It explains what cancer is.
  2. It advocates for children to ask questions.
  3. It promotes the expression of ALL feelings.
  4. It encourages conversation.
  5. It tells children that the illness is not their fault (sooooooooo important!)
  6. It identifies that even though physical changes happen to people, they are still the same on the inside.
  7. It even goes so far as to introduce the concept of death.  Yes, the “D” word.  And totally right on because children WILL think about it.

I truly can’t say enough good things about this book.  My friend’s daughter has read this book so many times (in AND out of the bathroom).  We talk about it frequently and I see the positive effect that this book has made in her experience with her mother’s breast cancer.

Alaric Lewis, the author, sadly experienced the death of his mother when he was a child.  He writes, “many caring adults wanted to ‘spare’ me from the grim realities of her illness, feeling that I was too young to understand.  Yet, the questions I had about the events that swirled around in my world were very real.  Given the lack of real answers, I frequently resorted to my own misinformed hypotheses.  Children are never too young to understand some sort of explanation, and adults need to remember that talking with the child is vital for his or her understanding, self-awareness, and eventual ability to cope.”

I wholeheartedly applaud him for his ability to “break the cycle” of excluding children from being a part of the cancer experience.  I also thank him for this incredible SM (Shining Moment) gift that he has given to children, families, schools and other support teams coping with cancer in their lives.

My friend’s daughter’s comfortable, matter-of-fact attitude about Mommy’s Breast Cancer combined with her ability to ask questions and choose Bathroom reading material about cancer (over princesses and Fancy Nancy) demonstrates that candor, honesty, and healthy communication diffuses fear, anxiety and isolation when dealing with breast cancer.

So, wishing you happy reading, in and out of the Bathroom.


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