Archive for patient & caregiver support

Wish Fulfillment Organizations for People With Cancer



Some wishes can come true.  Just ask anyone who has worked with one of the organizations listed below as they work to make wishes come true for people with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.  Some work specifically to grant wishes of children; others with adults; and still others for families who have a parent battling cancer.  The various organizations have differing eligibility requirements and limitations regarding the types of wishes they grant.  Each organizaion is amazing in their own way.

Please note:  To find out more information on getting a wish granted, please contact each organization directly.  If you know of other organizations that offer wish fulfillment, please email me at and I’ll post their information.


3 Little Birds 4 Life  This nonprofit grants wishes to young adults with cancer ages 18-40.  Wishes that include travel are restricted within the continental United States.

Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation  Best known for offering parents temporary housing near the hospitals where their children are being treated, this foundation also provides funding for various adventures for children with advanced diseases.

Children’s Wish Foundation International  This Atlanta-based nonprofit grants wishes to children with advanced illness, including advanced cancer, who are younger than 18 years old. Children who are “too young to make a wish that is truly their own” can participate in the organization’s Young Minds program, which provides children younger than three years old with an assortment of gifts to entertain and provide comfort.

The Clayton Dabney Foundation for Kids with Cancer  Through the Medicine of the Heart program, this foundation anonymously grants wishes to children with advanced cancer who come from financially needy families. A health care provider, such as a doctor or nurse, must nominate the child.

Compassion Partners  This Disney program provides children and adults free passes to several theme parks in Florida, including Disney theme parks, Sea World, Universal Studios Orlando, and Busch Gardens. Passes are available by calling 407-396-6065 or 407-828-2298.

Deliver the Dream  This organization provides families living with an advanced illness whether the illness involves a child or a parent the chance to relax, enjoy time together, and forge bonds with others during a three-day retreat. Health care providers or one of Deliver the Dream’s partnering organizations are responsible for recruiting the family for participation.

The Dream Factory  The Dream Factory grants wishes to critically and chronically ill children who are between three and 18 years old. Parents, guardians, physicians, other caregivers, and children with advanced diseases can make referrals to begin the wish-granting process.

Dream Foundation  The Dream Foundation fulfills the wishes of adults suffering from advanced illnesses. The foundation seeks to help adults find peace and closure with the realization of a final wish. Dream Foundation grants requests to adults older than 18 years old whose life expectancy, confirmed by their physicians, is one year or less. They must also confirm that they have limited resources.

Give Kids the World  The Give Kids the World Village is a 70-acre resort in Central Florida that offers accommodation, entertainment, and other attractions for children with life-threatening illnesses. The charity provides children between the ages of three and 18 and their families free, one-week vacations to help create long-lasting memories. A child must be sponsored by one of more than 250 wish-granting organizations in the country or a children’s hospital affiliated with Give Kids the World.

Granted Wish Foundation  The Granted Wish Foundation fulfills wishes for “disabled, disadvantaged, and deserving individuals and families” and works with people of all ages. In addition, the foundation has a special program that provides luxury air transportation for children with advanced illness and their families to travel to receive life-saving treatment.

Hope Kids  This charity hosts regular events and activities (a “never-ending” wish) that help restore hope for the future. Hope Kids also provides a support community for children with advanced illnesses and their families.

The Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation The J&J Late Stage Cancer Foundation is a national resource providing WOW! experiences for children and families who have a Mom or Dad with late stage, limited life expectancy cancer.

Jason’s Dream for Kids  Jason’s Dreams for Kids grants wishes to children diagnosed with a progressive, degenerative, or malignant condition. The organization relies on medical professionals and parents for referrals and determines medical eligibility with the help of the treating physician.

Kids Wish Network  The Kids Wish Network grants wishes for children who are between three and18 years old. The organization’s “Our Hero” program also provides wishes for children who have overcome life-altering circumstances and endured great pain and suffering. Anyone can refer a child, including a family member, friend, nurse, doctor, or social worker.

Make-a-Wish Foundation  The nation’s largest wish-granting organization, Make-a-Wish fulfills the wishes of children between two and a half and 18 years old with life-threatening medical conditions, aiming to “enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.” The organization accepts referrals from health care professionals and parents, and children can even nominate themselves. After evaluating medical eligibility, a team of volunteers meets with the child to help identify the child’s “true wish.”

Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation  Making Memories grants wishes for patients with metastatic breast cancer, while raising awareness about the disease. People with advanced breast cancer or their friends and family members can submit wish requests.

The Marty Lyons Foundation Founded by professional football player Marty Lyons after serving as a surrogate father of a three-year-old boy with a life-threatening illness, the foundation helps grant wishes for children with advanced illnesses.

Memories of Love  This organization provides children who have parents with advanced illness with a chance to form long-lasting memories by going on vacation with their entire family. Families are sent on a five-day, all-expense-paid vacation to Orlando, Florida. A physician, health care provider, or care organization must identify and nominate a parent who has an advanced illness.

Never Too Late  This organization helps make wishes and dreams come true for people age 65 and older with advanced illness, aiming to honor the lives they have lived. The organization requests some financial support from family members to fulfill wish requests.

Nicki Leach Foundation  This foundation provides financial assistance to teenagers and adults between 16 and 25 years old who have advanced cancer. The foundation’s clients often use this assistance to pay for specific needs or activities that they may not be able to afford, such as clothing, college, a cell phone, or bills. The applicant’s oncologist must confirm diagnosis.

Operation Liftoff  Operation Liftoff provides children with advanced illness three types of trips: “dream trips” for children and their families, “care trips” for medical treatment in other regions, and “group trips” to help teenagers with advanced illnesses leave the hospital and bond with peers. Parents and caregivers complete a form to request a trip.

The Rainbow Connection  This organization helps grant wishes to children from Michigan facing an advanced illness. To qualify, children must be between two and a half and 18 years old, live in Michigan, be diagnosed with an advanced illness, and have the diagnosis verified by a physician. In addition, they must not have received a wish fulfillment from any other organization. Medical professionals, parents or guardians, and children may submit wish requests.

Second Wind Dreams  This international fulfillment organization works to enhance the life of those living in elder care communities such as nursing, assisted living, and hospice facilities by granting wishes. The organization grants relationship-based dreams, needs-based dreams, lifelong dreams, and “I don’t want to grow up” dreams, among others.

A Special Wish Foundation  This foundation grants wishes for infants, children, and young adults younger than 21 years old who have been diagnosed with an advanced illness. Wishes fall into three categories, including “a special gift,” “a special place,” or “a special hero.”

Starlight Foundation  This foundation provides entertainment, education and family activities for seriously ill children and their families. Starlight Wishes provide a dream-come-true experience to seriously ill or injured children ages 4 to 18.

Sunshine Foundation  This foundation is committed to fulfilling the dreams of children three to 18 years old who have advanced cancer or special needs and those who have faced abuse.

United Special Sportsman Alliance  This wish-granting organization specializes in providing children and adults with disabilities or advanced illness an outdoor adventure of their dreams. Trips include hunting, fishing, water sports, and other activities.

The Warrior’s Wish Foundation  This charity grants wishes for U.S. military veterans with advanced illness and their families. Gifts range from hearing aids and scooter chairs to family vacations and trips to attend reunions. The application requires a current photograph, a description of the wish, and an explanation of why it’s meaningful.

Wishing Star  This charity grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses who are between three and 21 years old and live in Eastern and Central Washington and Idaho. Children do not have to be terminally ill to qualify.

Wish Upon A Star  This  non profit, law enforcement effort is designed to grant the wishes of children ages 3-18 years old living in California who are afflicted with high-risk and life-threatening illnesses.

Wishing Well Foundation USA  This New Orleans-based organization is committed to granting wishes for children with advanced illness. Children younger than 18 years old are eligible to apply.


(Source:  Resources listed above were found on Cancer.netDuke Cancer CenterPatient Resource & Stupid Cancer)


MORE Books for Children & Families Living with Cancer


I am amazed how many books have been written to help families deal with a diagnosis of cancer.  Below is yet another post on helpful books written by Bonnie Coberly, Certified Health Counselor (CHC) at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers. Bonnie helps individuals to reach their wellness goals through smart and healthy dietary choices. You can follow Bonnie Coberly on Google+.  


It’s a well-known fact that if you have a book and a lap, most children will expect you to read them a story. While reading is usually said to be a calm and joyful experience, topics like cancer may not seem to follow that same thread.

Here are some suggestions of books for children and families living with cancer that prove to not only be helpful, but can also be entertaining and uplifting.

*Note: All of the following books can be found on

Children’s Books:

The Boy of Steel: A Baseball Dream Come True by Ray Negron – “Young Michael Steel loves to watch the New York Yankees on TV—from his hospital bed. Michael has brain cancer. But when Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano visits Michael in the hospital, Michael embarks on an unexpected and wonderful journey when he becomes a Yankee batboy for a day. It’s his baseball dream come true!”

When Someone You Love Has Cancer: A Guide to Help Kids Cope by Alaric Lewis

Taking Cancer to School (Special Kids in School Series) by Kim Gosselin – A great book for cancer patients who are school-aged to take back to school with them or have their teacher read to their classmates. Provides learning for classmates and encourages empathy and understanding.

H is for Hair Fairy: An Alphabet of Encouragement and Insight for Kids (and Kids at Heart!) with Cancer by Kim Martin – “An alphabet book with a mission, this 32-page picture book will inspire, comfort, educate and encourage children being treated for cancer. Using colorful, warm, humorous illustrations and verse, the author employs the alphabet to feature different aspects of coping with cancer treatment.”

Imagine a Rainbow: A Child’s Guide for Soothing Pain by Brenda Miles – “Through a series of beautiful illustrations that engage all of the senses, each accompanied by a verse couplet, this book asks the child to imagine several things to cope with pain. Some are calming, some are delighting, some are empowering, some are inspirational.”

Mom Has Cancer! (Let’s Talk about It) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos – “This sensitively written book encourages preschool-age and early-grades children to explore the possibilities of a parent with cancer.”

The Famous Hat by Kate Gaynor – “This book has been designed to help children with leukemia (or other forms of cancer) to prepare for treatment, namely chemotherapy, and a stay in hospital. Treatment for childhood cancer can be very difficult to cope with, especially for very young children. The lengthy stay in hospital, having to contend with drips, tubes and injections is difficult enough without the possibility of hair loss for children to face. However, this book helps children to see the experience of a child that they can easily relate to.”

For Parents:

When a Parent Has Cancer: A Guide to Caring for Your Children by Wendy S. Harpham – “When A Parent Has Cancer is a book for families written from the heart of experience. A mother, physician, and cancer survivor, Dr. Wendy Harpham offers clear, direct, and sympathetic advice for parents challenged with the task of raising normal, healthy children while they struggle with a potentially life–threatening disease.”

What Is Cancer Anyway?: Explaining Cancer to Children of All Ages by Karen Carney – “What IS Cancer, Anyway? Explaining Cancer to Children of All Ages is one of the books in the Barklay and Eve Children’s Book Series. This book provides basic information that is essential when someone in the family has cancer and does so in a calm, clear, reassuring manner that children and adults will appreciate.”

Cancer in the Family: Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Illness by Sue Heiney, Joan Hermann, Katherine Bruss and Joy Fincannon – “Outlining valuable steps necessary to help children understand what happens when a parent has been diagnosed with cancer, this guide provides “hands-on-tools” to help those affected by cancer—as well as their loved ones—face many of the dilemmas that come with the disease.”

For Siblings:

What about Me?: When Brothers and Sisters Get Sick by Allan Peterkin – “A young girl attempts to cope with her brother’s being ill.”

Authored by Cancer Patients:

Chemo Girl: Saving the World One Treatment at a Time by Christina Richmond – “Chemo Girl is the fictional tale of a superhero created by Christina Richmond, who was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of muscle cancer, when she was in the seventh grade.”

I’m A Superhero by Daxton Wilde – “I’m A Superhero reaches beyond borders and cultures, helping children and their families to be brave, helping parents explain cancer to their young children, and helping families cope with one of life’s most difficult situations through love and humor.”

Do you have any cancer related books that you have found helpful for your family or children?  If so, please share them with us.  Knowledge is power…. let’s share the power!


Books Written For Children When an Adult Family Member Has Cancer


I recently came across a helpful list of books written to help children when an adult family member has cancer.  This list was compiled by the Children & Family Program team of The Gathering Place, a non-profit, community-based cancer support center that offers a wide variety of FREE programs for anyone touched by cancer living in Ohio.  

Below are a some of the books they suggest for families with younger children along with a brief description of each book.   Thank you The Gathering Place!

If you know of a fantastic book that was not listed below, please post the information below in the comments section or email me at  Knowledge is power…. please share the power!



Our Mom Has Cancer, Abigail and Adrienne Ackerman, American Cancer Society, 800/227- 2345, $8.95. Written by two children whose mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. They discuss their reactions to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The illustrations are simple children’s drawings, but capture the emotion of the ups and downs of treatment. This book is hopeful but honest, and is more focused on feelings associated with treatment rather than what treatments are and why they happen.

In Mommy’s Garden, Neyal Ammary, Canyon Beach Visual Communications, 2007, OOP*. A mother uses the idea of a garden to explain cancer to her daughter. Cancer is described as weeds. The mother discusses how chemicals and digging the weeds out can kill this plant. She also says that the chemicals used can affect the petals of the flowers. Terms like chemotherapy, operation, and hair loss are not used. This book would be ideal for a parent to read along with their child to explain the meaning of the metaphors. Strengths of this book include the illustrations of people being drawn with blank faces in order for the readers to decide how they think the individual is feeling. Because of the metaphor this book uses and the simple pictures and language, young school-age children would most benefit from being read the story.

The Dandelion Seed, Joseph Anthony, DAWN Publications, 1997, $7.95. This book is the story of a dandelion seed that fears letting go of the flower. When the wind blows it free the seed learns that the world can be scary, lonely, and beautiful. Once it reaches its new home, it blooms into the dandelion it was meant to be that then spreads its seeds. This book is a beautiful metaphor for those looking to know that in a journey that is scary and lonely a positive ending can await.

Lance Armstrong: The Race of His Life, Kristin Armstrong, Grosset & Dunlap, 2000, $3.99. Children experiencing cancer may want to know of others that have also experienced the disease, including celebrities. This hopeful Level 3 reading book gives the story of bicyclist Lance Armstrong and how he has overcome challenges throughout his life, including beating cancer.

The Paper Chain, Claire Blake, Eliza Blanchard & Kathy Parkinson, Health Press, 1998, (1- 800-643-2665), $8.95. An excellent book for young children, from late pre-school through school-age, which presents a standard range of events that occur when a mother has cancer. Surgery, hospitalization, chemotherapy and radiation are all discussed. Language level and illustrations are very good; the only disadvantage of this book is that it may present too much information for the younger children, especially since children may be exposed to material which may not be part of their family’s cancer experience

Good Luck, Mrs. K.! Louise Borden, Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002, $6.99. A story for mid-school- age children about a teacher with cancer, this book fills a gap in the literature. The illustrations and text are well done, and would be helpful to a child whose loved teacher had to leave school because of cancer. This book has a positive ending as the teacher does make a return the next year.

Can I Catch Cancer?, Brittany’s Books Publishing, 2007, $7.95. An attempt to teach the meanings of words such as cells, cancer, malignant, and chemotherapy, using colors, simple concepts, and cute language. This book is visually geared for very young children, but the text would be too difficult for these ages. Older children may be offended by the childishness of the art.

Grandma Kathy Has Cancer, Colleen Buckley, Dog Ear Publishing, 2007, $11.50. The real life situations presented in this book of a granddaughter and grandmother can help children to understand how cancer can physically affect someone while the individual herself does not change. With emphasis in how the grandchild and grandmother support each other throughout the ups and downs of cancer treatment, this simple and direct story is told through a child’s voice alongside cheerful, full-color illustrations.

What Is Cancer Anyway: Explaining Cancer to Children Of All Ages, Karen Carney, Dragonfly Publications, 1998, $7.95. A book in the Barklay and Eve series. Coloring book format, with lots of information on cancer, radiation and chemotherapy. Addresses cancer in a grandparent. Less focus on questions children might have, but emphasis on all cancers being different and the importance of asking questions. While, the text is appropriate for school-age children they might be offended by the childishness of the main characters being dogs.

When the Boys Ran the House, Joan Carris, Lippincott, 1982, OOP*. Tells the story of four young children who take on household responsibilities while their mother is sick and father is away. Cute, rather silly, for young to middle school-agers. It does address some of the issues children face when a parent is unable to fill normal roles.

Our Family Has Cancer, Too, Christine Clifford, Pfeifer-Hamilton Publishers, 1998, $6.95. Using cartoon characters, this book is for the 7-12 year old who is dealing with family cancer. The story presents a family in which the mom is diagnosed with cancer and her two sons learn about hospitalization, chemotherapy, radiation, and what changes there will be in their lives. There are good suggestions for adults to help children understand the material.

Someone I Really Love Has Cancer, Dana Cohn and L.E.Murray, self-published, copies available from 203/226-9165, 1999, OOP*. As one of the few books developed for younger children, this book has simple line drawings of animated figures and deals with the changes in a person from cancer and chemotherapy. Common questions that children have are also presented. The father is the person with cancer in this book. It is available in both Spanish and English.

My Mommy Has Breast Cancer, But She Is OK!, Kerri M. Conner, Xylophone Press, 2010. This book is about a girl named Maddie and her relationship with her mother as her mother gets treatment for breast cancer. It addresses her feelings towards her mother’s physical and emotional changes such as the way she spends times with her mother, shows her affection towards her, and the differences in her daily routine. These changes are addressed to Maddie by comparing her mother’s changes to that of a butterfly with constant confirmation that things are different and difficult but okay. The story is unique in that it features African-American characters and shows a return to normalcy in a mother one year after treatment.

Let My Colors Out, Courtney Filigenzi, American Cancer Society, 2009, $11.95. This board book tells the story of a young boy who uses color to express his many different emotions as his mother undergoes cancer treatment. As his feelings range from sad to happy to angry, the boy realizes that it’s okay to go through a range of feelings and that it is important to let them out. This book is ideal for children ages 2-5.

Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-Tankerous Mommy, Amelia Frahm, Nutcracker Publishing Company, 2001, $9.95. A great, silly little book that handles young children’s emotional reactions to a parent with cancer very well. The only treatment mentioned is “medicine” and most of the book focuses on hair loss, changes in mother’s energy, and children’s struggles with family changes.

Just the Facts: Cancer, Oliver Gillie, Heinemann Library, 2004. This is a comprehensive and straight-forward guide to cancer that gives an overview of the disease through a description of what it is, its various forms, how people live with it, and treatment options. Personal stories from cancer survivors are throughout the book. Full color photographs accompany the text. Appropriate for older school-age children to teens.

The Valentine’s Day Gift, Allison Grace, Chagrin River Publishing, 2005. A first person account of a school-age girl’s experience with her mother’s breast cancer. It is a very positive upbeat story, but fairly specific to the experiences of this one child. She does talk about her feelings, and what helps her cope, and gives some information on cancer itself. The book is mostly text, with minimal illustrations.

You are Not Alone: Families Touched by Cancer, Eva Grayzel, self published, 2010. An easy to read book featuring a collection of stories from children all over the world who explain what they do to cope with cancer in parents, siblings, relatives, and themselves. In addition to giving suggestions of ways to help deal with feelings, this book may give a child comfort in feeling that they are not alone in having to adapt to the changes that are happening in their family because of cancer.

Becky and the Worry Cup, Wendy S. Harpham, Harper Collins Publishers, 1997. This highly recommended 48 page chapter book for ages 7-10 tells the story of a girl named Becky and how she and her family cope with her mother’s lymphoma diagnosis, chemotherapy and its side effects, cancer recurrence, radiation, and adjusting to their “new normal.” Highlights of this book include multiple examples of realistic situations that may cause a child to be worried, embarrassed, afraid or angry and the many different ways that a child can cope with them. In addition, the book also uniquely addresses why, even when a parent is in remission, it helps families to not forget about the cancer. The book ends with the positive message that although lemonade cannot always be made out of lemons, it is important to try and appreciate the positives in life. When a Parent Has Cancer: A Guide To Caring For Your Children is the parent accompaniment to this book that explains how to address many of the issues presented in Becky & the Worry Cup.

Nana, What’s Cancer?, Beverlye Hyman Fead and Tessa Mae Hamermesh, American Cancer Society, 2010, $14.95. This comprehensive book gives a thorough explanation of the medical and emotional aspects of cancer. Designed for school-age children, it is separated into chapters that focus on typical concerns of this age group including whether cancer can be caught, why some cancers are worse than others, whether anyone can get it, and what can be done to prevent cancer. The information given is designed to be both comforting and honest to the reader.

Sammy’s Mommy Has Cancer, Sherry Kohlenberg, Magination Press, 1993, $9.95. A simple story with nice illustrations about a mother with cancer. Appropriate for younger children, but does cover issues of surgery, chemotherapy, hair loss, and return to wellness.

When A Parent is Very Sick, Edna LeShan, Atlantic Monthly, 1986, OOP*. Written for older school-ager or young teen, this book identifies the many responses a child might have to a parent’s illness, hospitalization, or death. Special focus is given to living with a chronically ill parent and to mental health problems.

When Someone You Love Has Cancer: A Guide to Help Kids Cope, Alaric Lewis, Abbey Press, 2005, $7.95. A series of specific statements about the impact of cancer, with illustrations for each concept like “It’s O.K. to be mad,” “Talking helps,” and “Sometimes people don’t get better.” Each page can be read separately, and the illustrations are younger than the narrative. A good tool for parents who want to chose their own points of emphasis, although younger children would have a hard time skipping specific pages.

The Rainbow Feelings of Cancer: A Book for Children Who Have a Loved One with Cancer, Carrie and Chia Martin, Hohm Press, 2001. A ten year old girl tells about the many feelings that she has concerning her mother’s cancer. Her drawings accompany the text.

Someone I Love is Sick, Kathleen McCue, The Gathering Place Press, 2009, $21.95. This is a customizable book to use when talking with children ages 2-6 years old when a parent or grandparent has cancer. Pages can be selected to address the family’s specific situation including diagnosis, treatment, hospitalization, recurrence and, if need be, end of life. It can be used by both families and health care professionals to provide educational information and recognize emotional responses to cancer.

Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When Someone You Love has Cancer . . . A Hopeful, Helpful Book for Kids, Ellen McVicker, self-published, 2006, $16.95. In this well- written story of a boy whose mother has cancer, a clear and honest explanation is given of the disease that is helpfully accompanied by drawings of cells. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are each explained. The book discusses the emotions and questions a child may have and emphasizes what a child can do to help themselves and others when a loved one has cancer. This book also has its own website,, that has further resources to help a child cope.

Chemo Cat, Cathy Nilon, Ravenna Press, 2007, $9.95. A story about a cat family in which the mother is diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. The story’s simple language can provide a starting point to discuss chemotherapy, changes in physical appearance, and changes in the home. Common questions children ask are addressed as well as some of the emotions they may feel such as sadness, anger, jealousy, and embarrassment. The book ends on a positive note reflecting on the strengths of the family that have helped them cope with cancer.

The Hope Tree: Kids Talk About Breast Cancer, Laura Numeroff and Wendy Harpham, Simon & Schuster, 1999, OOP*. This book uses animal illustrations to familiarize children with some of the significant stress points when a mother has breast cancer. Issues such as reactions to diagnosis, understanding changes, family meetings, dealing with feelings, positive attitudes, etc., are addressed in this book through children’s personal stories. This book makes it easy to pick and choose information relevant to the situation of a family. NOTE: This same book is also published as Kids Talk by Samsung Telecommunications and Sprint PCS, 1999, OOP*. The content is identical.

When Bad Things Happen: A Guide to Help Kids Cope, Ted O’Neal, Abbey Press, 2003, $7.95. This book is a series of specific questions and concerns that children can have when bad things happen as well as suggestions for coping. Examples include “However you feel is okay,” “Why?,” and “Try to forgive.” Illustrations are younger than the narrative. God is mentioned throughout the book as a source of support. Each page can be read separately with the illustrations being younger than the narrative. This is a good tool for parents who want to choose their own points of emphasis, although younger children may have a hard time skipping specific pages.

My Mommy Has Cancer, Carolyn Parkinson, Park Press, 1991. A short book for younger children about a boy, Eric, whose mother has cancer. Cells in the body are described as bubbles, and cancer is presented as bad bubbles. Chemotherapy is explained. There is some focus on the sadness the entire family feels, although the books presents hope for the future.

Mommy’s In The Hospital Again, Carolyn Parkinson, Solace Publishing, 1994. Great illustrations of a young boy dealing with his mother’s cancer. The child is kindergarten age, but much of the language of this book is for somewhat older children. It does deal with a sudden hospitalization and the honest fears and reactions of a young child.

A New Hat for Mommy: Helping Children Express Their Concerns on Cancer, Hannah Grace Perry, BookSurge, 2005, $10.99. A story of a nine year old girl named Lucy as she experiences her mother having cancer treatment. It explains the meaning of cancer, as well as what happens during hospitalizations and surgery. Questions to ask children about what Lucy and her family are experiencing are included throughout the book. This book is a good resource to start a conversation with children about their feelings and to help them feel that they are not alone. As the book is written with a lot of text in a simple style that discusses both complex issues and Lucy’s talking toy cat, it would be ideal for a parent to read to a young child while summarizing its content. It may also be appreciated by older school-age children looking for explanations about cancer, its treatment, and the feelings associated with it.

Daddy Kat gets a Brain Tumor, Melinda Rector,, 2007, $18.20. This book is the story of a cat who shares her reactions to her father’s brain tumor. The story ends with the father going to hospice and dying from his cancer. Children may find the story difficult to follow. The story’s references to a cat’s multiple lives may not serve to give a clear explanation of death.

When Mommy Had a Mastectomy, Nancy Reuben Greenfield, Bartleby Press, 2005, $14.95. This well-written book addresses the special connection that a child can have with her mother’s breasts and the difficulty she can have in learning about the cancer and need for the breasts to be removed. It also follows the child’s role and feelings as her mother has the surgery and experiences the lengthy waiting period of recovery. This story is an excellent choice to prepare a child for a loved one’s mastectomy and open up conversation.

When Mama Wore A Hat, Eleanor Schick, Wyeth, 2007, *W. This is a well-written book about two children that have a mother with cancer. The book gives a great deal of attention to the topic of chemotherapy treatment and common concerns and emotions a child has when a parent has cancer. It ends on a positive note with the mother feeling better after her treatments have been completed. This is one of the few stories in which the parent is single.

When Mommy Is Sick, Ferne Sherkin-Langer, Albert Whitman and Company, 1995, OOP*. Although not specifically about cancer, this is a very good little book which addresses many of the concerns a child has when a mother is sick and is hospitalized. Great illustrations and language level for younger children, and could be safely used to address separation concerns and coping for children facing any type of parental illness.

Cancer & Kids, Rae Simons, AlphaHouse Publishing, 2009. This comprehensive book defines cancer, explains the different types, discusses its various causes and methods for diagnosis, and provides information on ways to protect oneself against cancer and help to find a cure. A real life story is also provided about a family experiencing childhood cancer.

The Year My Mother Was Bald, Ann Speltz, Magination Press, 2002 $9.95. Nicely written book for mid- or older-school age children when a mother has breast cancer. Quite specific to diagnosis, with lots of medical information. Does emphasize emotions, questions, and changes that occur for a child in this age group.

Max’s Daddy Goes to the Hospital, Danielle Steele, Delacorte Press, 1989. This book is the story of four year old Max and how he copes with his father’s hospitalization and injuries after he breaks his arm and leg while firefighting. Although this book does not focus on the topic of cancer, children may be able to relate to the emotions of Max and his mother when they find out his father is injured, Max’s feelings and questions about having to wait to visit his father in the hospital, the experience of Max first seeing his father injured and with an IV, and the wait for his father to recover.

Mom and the Polka-Dot Boo-Boo: A Gentle Story Explaining Breast Cancer to a Young Child, Eileen Sutherland, American Cancer Society, 2007. A very simple story that is ideal for young children in explaining breast cancer, “special medicine,” the feelings a parent might have, and return to wellness. Children’s drawings accompany the rhyming text.

Hair for Mama, Kelly A. Tinkham, The Penguin Group, 2007. This comforting and humorous book is about a boy whose mother has cancer. Because of her hair loss, she does not want to be in the family photo. Her son Marcus makes it his mission to find her hair so that she will be in the photo and wishfully, feel better. The story’s resolution of the boy talking to his mother about his feelings helps him to learn why hair loss occurs and address his underlying concerns for his mother. Full page watercolor pictures illustrate the story. It is one of the few picture books available that features an African-American family.

When Eric’s Mom Fought Cancer, Judith Vigna, Albert Whitman and Company, 1993, OOP*. The story of a young boy whose mother has breast cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy are addressed, and good examples of guilt and anger on the part of the child are provided. Daddy plays an important role in this book in supporting his son.

Where’s Mom’s Hair?: A Family’s Journey Through Cancer, Debbie Watters, Second Story Press, 2005, $12.95. This is a family’s story about a mother’s cancer, illustrated by actual photographs of the diagnosis, hair loss and chemotherapy. The text is simple and told from a child’s point of view, and the emphasis of this book is on hair loss and re-growth, with a sense of celebration for the end of treatment.

Mira’s Month, Deborah Weinstein-Stern, BMT Newsletter, 1994, (1-708-831-1913), OOP*. A simple story about a four-year old whose mother has cancer and has to be in the hospital for one month. Issues around missing mom, visiting the hospital and coping with separation are addressed, and there is a happy reunion in the end.

Promises, Elizabeth Winthrop, Clarion Books, 2000, $16.00. Good focus on emotions and reactions of a young child, especially anger and confusion. This book does not use the word “cancer,” but describes side effects of treatment, especially hair loss, and sudden hospital stays. Emphasis is on the disruption to a child’s life when mother is sick.

Once Upon A Hopeful Night, Risa Yaffe, Oncology Nursing Press, 1998, $7.00. This small book is the story of a mother’s cancer, told in poetic verse, with line-drawn illustrations which are fairly mature in their depiction of the experience of cancer. Good for school-age children.

L’Shana Tovah (Happy New Year) & Some Advice on How to Live Life


Readers of CancerHAWK have told me that this particular post really resonates with them. So in honor of the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I think it’s fitting to re-post this one today… and BTW, I STILL read this every single morning as I’m getting dressed- it hangs on a mirror in my bathroom.  It gives me perspective and helps me remember that although life isn’t what I expected it to be, it’s still a gift…. after all, that’s how Alan always saw it.  Wishing you all a healthy, sweet, joyful, cancer-free New Year!


This post is called “How to Live Life” and was written by Regina Brett of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio.  Ms. Brett says, “To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written.”  She recently added 5 more lessons.  So without further ado, here is Regina Brett’s list of 50 life lessons…

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Coping With Mesothelioma: A Support Group for this Rare Cancer


Meet GUEST BLOGGER Faith Franz.  Faith is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center, an organization that provides support and resources for people and families with this rare disease.  Faith also likes to spread the word about the benefits of alternative medicine.

If you were diagnosed with lung cancer, you wouldn’t take chemotherapy drugs that treat leukemia. If there were malignant tumors on your kidney, you wouldn’t have surgery on your ovaries. So why, if you were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, should you settle for a support group that’s not designed specifically for mesothelioma patients?

Until recently, patients with this rare cancer have had few specialized care options – on both the medical and the emotional side of the spectrum. But as more research goes into this asbestos-related malignancy, doctors and social workers alike are learning how to address mesothelioma’s unique challenges.

Take, for instance, The Mesothelioma Center’s virtual support group. Hosted by Dana Nolan, a licensed mental health counselor, this group focuses exclusively on mesothelioma-related topics. It’s designed to fill the gap left by general support groups (or the lung cancer groups that many patients turn to in the absence of a mesothelioma-specific network).

In this free, telephone/online support group, patients and their loved ones are guided through emotionally-loaded issues such as:

  • Deciding when to forego cisplatin, carboplatin and other mesothelioma drugs in favor of alternative treatments
  • Adjusting to reduced physical abilities (when symptoms like breathlessness and chest pain get in the way of everyday activities)
  • Overcoming the financial challenges of paying for treatment, traveling to national treatment centers and taking a leave of absence from work
  • Discussing worst-case scenarios, legal arrangements and end-of-life care directives with relatives

Patients can also connect with others who share their same diagnosis. While it may be difficult for them to find other mesothelioma patients in their city, they can combat feelings of isolation by reaching out to other patients across the nation and around the world. Here, fellow survivors can share the therapies that they’ve found successful, outline the side effects they’ve experienced and explain the coping techniques that have improved their lives.

The group serves as a safe, confidential place to give and receive valuable emotional support. Patients are free to share as much – or as little – of their personal lives as they’d like, and the moderator will make sure patients aren’t inundated with unsolicited advice.

If you’d like to register for the next session (The Mesothelioma Center hosts one each month), simply fill out the quick information form. You’ll receive a number to call and an access code to enter on the day of the meeting. Patient advocates are also available to help you through the simple registration process.

Getting the 411 on Breast Reconstruction


The Cancer Support Community surveyed 762 breast cancer survivors (who were eligible for breast reconstruction) and found that 43% of these women did not receive any info about breast reconstruction PRIOR to making surgical decisions (mastectomy or lumpectomy).  Why is this a huge problem?  Well, if you opt to reconstruct one or both boobs, the method you choose to reconstruct can be affected depending on how the initial surgery is done.  Since you can’t go back and re-do your mastectomy, this is an extremely important conversation to have with your doctor BEFORE a mastectomy takes place.


Whether you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or have a family history of breast cancer and/or the BRCA gene and are contemplating a mastectomy, check out BreastReconstruction.Org, the most comprehensive site on breast reconstruction that I’ve come across.


To provide a better understanding of the breast reconstruction process and the different options that exist, BreastReconstruction.Org has created a site that contains easy-to-understanddetailed information with illustrations and photographs on topics including: mastectomy; options for reconstruction; secondary procedures including nipple tattooing; pre and post operative care; as well as the latest news & information on reconstruction.  You can also read stories from other women who have walked in your shoes and learn from the decisions they have made.  It’s really a fantastic site.


BTW, my dear friend and kick-ass breast cancer survivor Diane Mapes (AKA @Double_Whammied) just wrote an incredible article on her breast reconstruction using the BRAVA/ fat transfer method.  To read about Diane’s experience, see her article “Reconstructing Hope.  Diane also blogs about breast cancer at





Navigating A Diagnosis of Mesothelioma


This post was written by guest blogger Tim Povtak.  Tim is a former newspaper reporter  who has been writing for The Mesothelioma Center since 2011.  The Mesothelioma Center provides incredible support and resources for people and families who need help understanding and coping with this disease.

Knowledge is key when it comes to battling malignant mesothelioma cancer. The more you know, the better you will feel about the fight. Not only is it tough to pronounce, it’s even tougher to understand all the intricacies involved.

Getting skilled help is crucial. It’s just not easy to do.

To help someone first diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s vital to find the right resources – doctors and other medical professionals who see it regularly —  and a support group that is traveling the same route.

There is no replacement for experience.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer – only 3,000 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States — caused almost exclusively by an exposure to asbestos, the naturally occurring mineral that was used extensively through much of the 20th century.

Reliable information can be difficult to find. Although there is no cure, recent curative advancements have been made. Novel therapies are being developed today. Alternative, supplemental remedies can help, too.

Selecting the right specialist might be the most important decision a patient will face. That’s where help, and support, is needed.

A typical diagnosis of mesothelioma may sound like a death sentence – six to 18 months was the norm not long ago – but many patients are surviving longer, and some even thriving, with the right help.

Rule No. 1: Don’t Do It Alone

As a caregiver, or just good friend, it’s important to learn about the disease. There is an easy-to-read encyclopedia of resources available at

The Mesothelioma Center helps patients and caregivers find the best doctors and the most appropriate cancer centers with the latest and greatest, most technologically advanced equipment. This is not the time to take short cuts.

At, there are Patient Advocates who can advise patients and caregivers on where to turn, what to do next and how to connect with medical professionals. There is a registered nurse on staff to answer questions. There is a Veterans Department with counselors to answer questions that might be exclusive to veterans, helping navigate through the often-frustrating VA Health Care System.

Rule No. 2: Find a Support Group

There is a support group at that meets the second Wednesday of each month at 8 p.m. EST. You can join in online or by phone. It’s moderated by a licensed mental health counselor and open to mesothelioma patients, families and caregivers who can ask questions, discuss concerns and chat on various topics.

There also is a Mesothelioma Facebook page, where ideas are exchanged and support is received. Also, check out the Wall of Hope, a section on mesothelioma survivors who have beaten the odds because they refused to concede to this terrible cancer.

Rule No. 3: Stay Positive

There is hope, so don’t believe all the gloom and doom. Explore the world of clinical trials. Mesothelioma treatment is changing. Gene therapy, immunotherapy, photodynamic therapy are the future, but they aren’t yet part of the traditional approach. They are available, though, through various clinical trials. Go to the National Cancer Institute website to see what is being offered.

Something could work. There is no universal therapy that works for everyone, but people respond differently to different treatments. Finding the right one sometimes takes the help of a friend.

Top 3 Tips for Survivorship


In honor of National Cancer Survivor’s Day, Arash Asher, MD, a cancer survivorship expert and director of the Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship program at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute recommends incorporating the 3 tips below into daily life…

1. Avoid social isolation and chronic loneliness

Chronic loneliness can change a patient’s biological makeup, possibly increasing the chance of recurrence as well as higher death rates, Asher said. In fact, according to Asher, chronic loneliness is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes and more dangerous than physical inactivity or obesity. If patients surround themselves with positive and supportive friends and relatives, however, they can increase their longevity and quality of life, Asher said.

2. Tailored, moderate exercise

Exercise offers a myriad of benefits to any individual, but may be even more valuable to cancer patients and survivors, Asher said. Unfortunately, fewer than 50 percent of cancer survivors achieve their pre-cancer level of exercise, and many patients never talk about physical activity with their physicians. At the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, exercise specialists design workouts formulated for each patient’s abilities. Asher suggests that just like the benefits of a support system, exercise may improve the quality and quantity of life.

3. Get enough sleep

Americans often view sleep as a luxury and rest is one of the first things to be sacrificed if time doesn’t permit. Asher said that not getting enough sleep has serious consequences, including chronic illness and possibly an increased risk in cancer. Multiple studies have found that nightshift workers have a higher percentage of breast, colon and prostate cancer, as well as cognitive issues, and a higher risk of obesity and physical limitations. Half of all cancer survivors have some form of insomnia. The Cedars-Sinai Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship program works with these survivors to determine the cause of insomnia and then takes tactical steps toward managing these issues.

According to Dr. Asher, incorporating these 3 steps into a daily routine can help to improve overall quality of life as well as improves chance at survival.  For more information, visit the Cedars-Sinai website.

(Source:  Top 3 Tips for Survivorship)

Camps for Kids & Families Touched by Cancer


Attending one of the many camps created specifically for anyone touched by cancer can be a wonderful way to connect with others who share similar experiences.  While some camps are just for children (or young adults) who have been diagnosed with cancer or have survived a diagnosis of cancer; others are for their siblings; and still others are designed for the entire family to attend.  There are even camps for children who have lost a parent or sibling to cancer.  Creating new friendships, sharing adventures, mastering new skills or simply taking a break from cancer are a few of many benefits these camps can offer.

To find a camp that fits your specific needs, check out these incredible resources that list many different cancer camps.  Most camps have oncology doctors and nurses on staff to  provide medical care to campers when necessary.  Additionally, many of these camps are offered FREE of charge to participants.

Ped-Onc Resource Center which lists camps by state coupled with a short description of each camp.

Cancer.Net also provides a listing of different camp and retreat options for kids and families touched by cancer.

Allen’s Guide offers a listing a camps that specialize in oncology.

Also talk to your oncology nurse or social worker.  They may be able to suggest additional camps and/or retreats that may be beneficial for you.

If you’ve been to a camp that you loved, please comment below.  Knowledge is power… let’s share the power...

“How We Survived Cancer” – 7 Insights from Cancer Insiders


This post was written by guest blogger Greg Pierce.  Greg is a 3x cancer survivor, American Cancer Society Hero of Hope speaker and Social Media Community Manager for is a fantastic support site where anyone touched by cancer can connect with others on a similar path. makes it easy to share and gain knowledge from each other’s experiences as well as connect with American Cancer Society resources.  Greg can be reached at

If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer then you may feel shock, anger, sadness, denial, or confusion. Your loved ones are rallying around you, telling you to “fight!” It may help to have some suggestions from cancer survivors on just how to begin this fight. Below are seven ways that you can fight cancer inspired by cancer survivors themselves.

1. Relationship with Doctors and Medical Team

The relationship you will have with your doctor and medical team will be very intimate during treatment. Survivors that established relationships of trust with their team said that it was one of the main things that helped them survive cancer. From a medical perspective it is important, but it is often equally as important for your mental and emotional health.

2. Relationship with Caregiver

There may be a lot of strain put on your relationship with your caregiver during cancer and treatment. Often there is a mutual understanding of trust, respect, and gratitude, but sometimes it is easy to get frustrated or exhausted and take your stress out on one another. Survivors that have maintained a loving relationship with their caregiver (whether is a spouse, sibling, parent, or friend) have said that their caregiver was not only their main source of support but their number one cheerleader.

3. Family and Friends

A lot of survivors leaned on family and friends to help them survive cancer. Loved ones can be helpful during treatment from preparing meals, giving you rides, helping you around the house, taking your mind off things, going to appointments with you, distracting you from treatment, and acting as close confidants when you feel down. Survivors that have identified these steadfast loved ones in their lives have attributed a lot of their survival to those people.

4. Health and Nutrition

Some cancer survivors say that physical health and nutrition is not only a way to feel stronger during treatment, but it is also a concrete way to help yourself feel happier and more positive. Basic ways that survivors have tried to maintain their health include maintaining an exercise routine that it is approved by their doctor such as walking, stretching, swimming, and gentle yoga, working to get the nutrition they need by consulting their medical team about what foods are right for them, and sitting back and resting when their body was telling them to slow down.

5. Practical & Personal Methods of Coping

For you, surviving cancer may simply include finding your own personal or practical ways to get through days and treatment. Practical tips that have helped survivors include taking a notebook to doctor appointments to write down information they want to remember, keeping all insurance and medical related documents in a common folder, and packing a “chemo” bag for treatment. Personal ways may include taking up a new hobby, listening to soothing music during treatment, or it may be a new mindset to think positively or gain new perspective.

6. Support System

A support system can come in different forms. A common form is the people that are already around you; however, branching off from that direct source, there are local support groups, counselors, and online social networks. Not every form is right for everyone. Survivors say that they had to find the form of support that was right for them.

7. Help from the Community

A common regret that survivors share is that they did not accept the help that was offered them. It is possible that unexpected people will band together when they find out you have cancer. Survivors say that you should let them help you. It may be overwhelming or even feel intrusive in the beginning, but by letting these people help you, you will empower them in contributing to your fight. Help from the community may be from your church, work place, school, or other organizations that raise money and awareness for cancer.

These insights from inside survivors on your relationship with your medical team, caregiver, family and friends, support group, community, and your personal and physical ways of coping may help you to personally survive cancer, but ultimately you must find the best ways for you. Try stepping out of your shell this week and letting these avenues of support fall into place. What things do you think are going to help you the most? What things do you see that are already helping you fight cancer?