Middle school years should be a time of fun and exploration. During this time, adolescents are moving from the carefree days of their youth to ever-increasing responsibility. Well, most kids are.
Some kids don’t get that typical experience. Some live with learning disabilities and physical disabilities, and others are thrown the horrible curve ball of a cancer diagnosis.
No matter the type of cancer, it is always a serious, scary, and potentially life-threatening illness. Thanks to ongoing research by the American Cancer Society and others, children who battle cancer have a survival rate of 85 percent, and it’s improving every year.
But what about the other 15 percent? After struggling through cancer therapy, their parents are left without a child, their siblings without a little brother or big sister, their friends without a confidante. They may attend support groups, but no practical advice can bring their child, sibling, or friend back.
It’s heartbreaking, and while we often want to ignore such things, they happen every day.
So why write a book about childhood cancer?
If childhood cancer is so scary, why write about it? Wouldn’t it be better to leave the hospital visits, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy for when kids become adults?
Because it’s real. Real children really suffer with cancer. They don’t get to wait until they grow up to come face to face with cancer. They’re forced to consider it now, and the kind thing is for other children to be by their side as they do.
More than likely, your child knows someone who has faced cancer. Because of this, it’s important for your children to realize that just because someone loses their hair or grows tired easily due to treatment, they’re still kids.
They still have hopes and dreams.
They still like fart jokes and pranks.
They still think they can take on the world and don’t see themselves as helpless, pitiful victims.
They see themselves as cancer survivors. Because despite the fear that a cancer diagnosis gives and the side effects of cancer treatment, young cancer patients have something all of us need more of: hope.
How Kids Can Help Friends Who Have Cancer
If your son or daughter has a friend with cancer, you may be wondering how to respond. How can your child best care for that friend?
Having empathy and sympathy for little cancer patients is essential. Equally as important is remembering that a little person with cancer is more than his cancer experience.
Hence why one of the most important things children can do to help kids facing cancer is to visit them. Go see them in the hospital. Hang out with them at their homes. Play video games. Watch movies together. Laugh. Cry.
In other words, treat children with cancer like normal kids.
That’s what goes on in my middle-grade book, I’m 13 Years Old And I Changed The World. When Adam’s friend, Big Mike, gets sick with cancer, Adam feels a need to save the day. Through the course of the book, Adam realizes that he can’t get rid of Mike’s cancer. He can, however, be a friend. So he does it with gusto!
As Big Mike sleeps off chemo treatment or codes on his way to wellness, Adam sits by Mike’s bed, makes jokes, reads to his pal. Because that’s what friends do.
Straight Talk about Loving Kids with Cancer
It’s not always easy or comfortable to hang out with suffering friends, but friendship isn’t a one-way street. When a child experiences hair loss from chemotherapy, she only wants one thing: normal life.
Even with supporting families, Mom and Dad aren’t enough. Kids with cancer need friends. They need higher doses of friendship than chemotherapy. They need it to remember they’re normal and to maintain good mental health. Kids can do this by loving their friends.
Throughout the entire book, Adam is that friend. As Mike battles cancer, Adam is by his side every step of the way. It’s a heartwarming story, but it’s more than that. It’s honest. Because while not a true story, it contains truth. This truth is that people need people, the same idea that runs through I’m 12 Years Old And I Saved The World.
Can a book help kids navigate childhood cancer?
While I’m 13 Years Old And I Changed The World may not find a cure for cancer (cancer research will hopefully do that soon), it reminds kids that every cancer—from a brain tumor to blood cancer, childhood to adult cancer—is a serious illness. And when kids are going through a cancer journey—which includes hospital stays, palliative care, recovery, and potential relapse—they’re still kids and want to be treated as such.
Want your child to see a picture of helping a friend through a cancer journey? Know a young girl with personal experiences with cancer who needs to know she’s not alone? Want to celebrate older children who are cancer survivors? I’m 13 Years Old And I Saved The World can meet all these goals.
Have a child who is still reading picture books? Here is a great list of cancer-related picture books, including Is Cancer Contagious? by Vern Kousky.
Curious about clinical trials, cancer survivorship, or health care for children with cancer? Visit the American Cancer Society.