Dec 30, 2013

Thinking About Cancer Books

Regular readers know that my son has Crohns disease and while it is under control right now we still have to go get treatments every 8 weeks.  The treatments are IV infusions that we have to have done at a pediatric oncology center.  Last time we were there waiting to go back there were also two older kids who were there for cancer treatments.  It got me thinking,

"Does a kid with cancer like reading books about other kids with cancer?"

The Fault in Our Stars was checked out when I got back to school so I checked out Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt.  Right now I am about halfway done and here are some of my thoughts:

I can't speak for all teens, but I know that if I was diagnosed with cancer, I would totally read books about other kids with cancer.  But, that's what I do when confronted with something new, I read.  I know my son wouldn't want to read anything like this, not because he doesn't want to know, but mostly because he's not a big thinker.  He just takes things as they come and doesn't over analyze or reflect.  He's much like his dad in that respect.  I need to think and talk, I really need to talk.  

In Send Me a Sign, Mia decides not to tell her friends she is sick.  It's kind of easy to accomplish this since she gets diagnosed and treated in the summer and it's easy to explain being gone.  Also, her mother supports this decision. It is frustrating to read to say the least, but I bet a lot of kids with cancer feel they should hide their disease.  I know my son doesn't talk about having Crohn's but he also doesn't (seem) to mind when I talk about it or post about it.

I imagine that kids with a disease--be it Crohns, diabetes or cancer--feel a disconnect from other kids and maybe that's why books about sick kids would appeal to them, so they have someone to connect with.  When we were trying to find a treatment for Carter that worked I could tell he had a little separation from most of his friends.  This was the start of 8th grade when everyone was being really social and he just wanted to hang out with us at home.  Now that he is fine and healthy, that has gone away, but it was there.  I would imagine it's way worse with cancer when they have possible death hanging over their heads.

However, I think I would initially read a lot about cancer, then stop.  And choose books that have nothing to do with cancer or this world, lots of fantasy.

I just finished reading Send Me a Sign and came to another huge conclusion.  I don't want to read books about sick kids.   It brings it too close to home.  I know my son doesn't have cancer, but it's thrown out there every now and again: "Because he is so young his chances of being diagnosed with a cancer later increase." or "If he takes these two meds together he has a very slim chance of getting this certain type of cancer."  Really?  Then how do I make that decision?  So I bawled reading Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie and the sequel After Ever After and now Send Me a Sign.  I don't think I will be reading The Fault in Our Stars anytime soon!


  1. My daughter had stage 4 liver cancer when she was four. She is now twelve, and hasn't really hit the age where these books are on her radar yet. However, I can tell you as the parent of a child who had cancer, I find it very difficult to read these books. Even though I know that Leah knows that cancer can kill people, reading stories about characters who are dying while you could be, too, would totally freak me out. Sadako and the paper cranes (I know that's not the exact title) is one elementary level book that we could have read when Leah was younger because it is a great story, but I just couldn't bring myself to go there.

    1. That's why I wonder about teens with cancer reading books about teens with cancer. Of course, I would've been more likely to read them if I was healthy to get a glimpse of what it's like to deal with cancer, like any good "issue" book (that's what I call them). If I had a teen with cancer I would probably not encourage them to read them either, but rather stuff that didn't always make them think of being sick!

      I do always feel like a fraud when I am in the waiting area before one of Carter's treatments because we are not there for anything like cancer. But, it makes me so thankful this is all we have to deal with! Thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear the Leah beat it! I cannot imagine having to go through that with your child, Crohns has been hard enough!

  2. I like your advice.

    Side note: I want to hug you and Tina now.

    1. Thanks Juju, just go hug your darling girl and I will feel it here :).

  3. I see where you're coming from by not wanting to read those books. It's totally understandable! But as a young person with Crohns, reading fictional books about cancer makes me feel more connected, in a weird way (less alone). Of course, it's sad and scary and all of these other things, but most importantly it's a way of feeling understood. Sure, Cancer and Crohns are two very different diseases, but in a lot of ways they're very similar, as well.

    It's nice to be able to read about relatable book characters, like, Jenny Downham's Tessa in "Before I Die" and John Green's Hazel, Gus, and Isaac in "The Fault In Our Stars." Whether you're going through a flare-up or going into or coming out of surgery. It really allows you to put life in perspective and encourages you to live life to the fullest.

    I just wish there were more fiction books about living with invisible illnesses, like, Crohns, Arthritis, Lupus, etc.

    1. I think someone could write a dynamite and funny and moving book about a teen with Crohns because there can be a lot of humor and a lot of pain.