Disclaimer: I paid full price for these books and make no money if you click on any of the links.
Many of the books I’ve found have Mom as the parent with cancer (I think in part because of the many cancer patients with young children are women with breast cancer). When Someone You Love Has Cancer is a great neutral book, and here are a couple that focus on Dads with cancer.
My Dad Has Cancer
Written and Illustrated by Lauren Faye Uribe
Lauren Faye Uribe was nine years old when her dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of the bone. There weren’t many books about dads with cancer and so her parents supported her in writing one. The illustrations are all hers.
The story is first-person and narrative. Lauren introduces herself and gives the basics of her dad’s diagnosis and the treatment plan (chemo and radiation). Her dad’s hair falls out and while some of his friends shave their heads, Lauren’s three brothers say ‘No way!’. She details his activities when he needs to rest (books, computer, motorcycle races on TV) and the days he has more energy. She talks about how he needs to avoid getting sick, and stays out of the sun, and how his diet has changed – he can’t have sushi anymore (there is an adorable illustration of ‘sad sushi’). She writes about the different feelings she has and she introduces her therapist, Rachel, who she sees to talk about her Dad’s cancer and how she feels about the changes in her family. The book ends on a hopeful note – she hopes her dad will be healed but for now keeps a smile on her face and a kiss on her lips.
Lauren’s dad was in remission by publication, but that is not mentioned in the book itself. Early in the book, Lauren is reassured that he won’t die and reminded that her grandma had cancer and is now all better. These pages may be ones you need to address to talk about your own situation.
My Daddy’s Cancer
Written by Cindy Klein Cohen, MS, CCLS, and John T Heiney, Illustrated by Michael J. Gordon, AIA, Designed and Edited by Sharon R. Baseman
My Daddy’s Cancer is an interactive book, with a narrative story and a workbook section. Cohen is a Child Life specialist who has worked helping children cope with serious illness and loss since 1985. Heiney is a communications professional who works in healthcare and together they have published a number of resources. Their first book, Daddy’s Promise, was written to help children process and deal with grief after the death of a parent.
In My Daddy’s Cancer, the first-person narrative features Jimmy, a young boy whose father is diagnosed with cancer. He worries that he caused his father’s cancer by throwing a ball at him when he wasn’t looking, during a game of catch. He wonders why his dad doesn’t have the energy for things he used to. He worries about getting cancer himself or that his mom will get cancer. These worries and concerns are addressed by his mom, and Jimmy makes a tape for his dad to listen to and a picture for him to look at while he sits for his chemo.
One day Grandma picks Jimmy up from school and tells him that Daddy has to stay at the hospital overnight. He’s sad and angry, and Grandma tells him it’s okay to cry. They call Daddy at the hospital to say good-night. The next day, Jimmy goes to visit Daddy in the hospital. Mommy comes home and prepares him for the visit, showing him pictures of people in hospital beds, with IV lines. Jimmy thinks it’s a bit scary, but when he gets to the hospital he’s so happy to see Daddy that he forgets being scared.
Daddy comes home and has good days and bad days. Sometimes he goes back to the hospital for overnight stays. Jimmy says that sometimes he’s scared and sometimes he’s sad and he talks to his parents about it. He looks forward to the good days when he can do things with his Daddy, like going to the library.
The narrative portion is illustrated with black-and-white line drawings, meant to be coloured in. The workbook section features Bernie Bear – Jimmy’s teddy bear, seen in many of the illustrations. The activities are several drawing pages (a picture of yourself for your Daddy, a picture of anywhere you want to be with Daddy that is not a hospital, your feelings) and a maze. There is also a page of tips for Moms and Dads on helping their children through a parent’s illness.
It’s a simple book, with an open ended story. I like the fact that it addresses frequent, unexpected hospitalizations and the unpredictable nature of the illness. The characters are only seen from the back – we never see faces. I think this makes it easier for children to see themselves in the character’s place, and to personalise them as they colour them in.
Because… Someone I Love Has Cancer: A Kid’s Activity Book
By The American Cancer Society
Spiral bound with 5 ‘twist-up’ crayons, and a sturdy back cover, this activity book is designed for children age six through twelve, but may be useful to younger children or teenagers. Most of the activities involve drawing, and it’s something siblings can work on together, either in the same book or each in their own.
There are six sections in the book:
- Things Change
- Label Your Feelings
- Know Yourself
- Boost Your Self-Esteem
- Find Your Strengths
- You Can Handle It
There is also a list in the introduction of family and group activities for parents or caregivers to look over and consider trying with their children. The book is reproducible for non-commercial purposes – this means you can buy one book for your family and scan or photocopy the pages to give to multiple children.
What I like about this book is it’s open-endedness. There’s room for kids to go in whatever direction they need to. Each section offers a range of prompts, and children can interpret them however they wish. It doesn’t feel (to me, anyways) like there is a ‘right’ answer they are ‘supposed’ to get. It’s all about them.
Here are some images of some of the activities – there are many drawing/colouring prompts, blank pages and other activities besides these:
What other resources are helping your kids cope? Have you used any activity or interactive books to help them process their experiences?
Next week in Part Four we’ll talk about books for teenagers – and there’s a giveaway!