Teaching Kids About Cancer


I’m not one of the lucky ones.

Or maybe I am.

I was forced to teach my daughter about cancer well before she could even spell the word… but with knowledge comes power.

In 2004, I gave birth to my first child; a healthy baby girl with a mound of electrocuted jet-black hair. She was the first grandchild on my side of the family and instantly became the end-all, be-all of my parents’ existence.

My mom especially doted on her first grandchild, spending every waking moment rocking, singing, hugging, kissing and cuddling the newest member of our family.

My daughter personified a new chapter in my mom’s life. She was now a grandma, a role she had always dreamed of playing. The bundle of pink my mom swaddled day after day was full of hope, promise and joy. Pure joy in the form of future days spent baking, gardening and painting together.

Or so we thought.

Nearly five months to the day after my daughter arrived home from the hospital my mom was admitted to the ICU. The reason: Stage IIB breast cancer. Surgery, clinical trials, rounds of medication and intense therapy followed the diagnosis that shook our family to its core.

Sadly, my mom is far from the only grandmother, mother, sister, wife, aunt, friend that has been dragged on cancer’s insidious ride to hell.

Just ask Julie Clark.

The hardworking wife/mother/teacher/entrepreneur’s life was moving full steam ahead when she was struck by breast cancer, not once, but twice. A double dose of pain and heartbreak that would have easily crippled the best of us. Yet, instead of drowning in a valley of tears, Clark put pen to paper and created one of the most heartwarming, sensitive, and courageous books on living life with cancer.

You Are the Best Medicine is written especially for young children who are journeying through life with a loved one battling cancer. Watching a parent undergo cancer treatment is scary, regardless of your age. I know this for a fact. But, I was “lucky”. I was in my early 30s when my mom’s cancer was detected. I can’t imagine how different my life would have been if my mom’s diagnosis occurred 20 or 25 years earlier.

Honestly, I don’t want to know. Reading You Are the Best Medicine reaffirms this.

Clark’s poignant picture book features 32 pages of pure comfort. The author’s carefully chosen words reassure children that their love is indeed the best medicine in the world.

Cancer has the power to render the strongest and most influential people helpless, so imagine what it does to a child, who doesn’t understand the full scope of the disease. Clark’s masterful handling of this sensitive subject empowers kids and helps them realize that a little bit of love can make a huge difference in the life of a sick loved one.

Adding to the book’s warmth are Jana Christy’s gorgeous illustrations. The soft and fuzzy pastel drawings are like gigantic hugs that envelope your entire being. The impeccably detailed pictures complement Clark’s nurturing story-telling techniques and encourage optimism among young readers… and old ones, like me.

Like Clark’s, my mother’s cancer story has a happy ending. She is in remission. Moreover, my mom and my daughter are beyond best friends. They share a bond that cannot be compromised, not even by a disease that seeks to ravage everything it touches.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and while some advances have been made in research and treatment, the disease continues to take a toll on women. If you know anyone who is currently waging war against cancer or who has survived the disease’s unconscionable terror, consider gifting them with You Are the Best Medicine. Clark has promised to donate 100% of the book’s proceeds to UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

You Are the Best Medicine is published by HarperCollins and can be purchased on its website.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.