Girl Scout writes children's book on cancer with CTRC’s help
By Elizabeth Allen, 210-450-2020
“I know children are very curious,” said Olivia Martin, 15. That’s because Olivia had lots of questions herself eight years ago when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The experiences of Olivia and her little brother inspired her Gold Award project for the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas ― a short children’s book called “C is for Cancer: A Guide for Children Whose Family Members Have Cancer.”
She presented the book to a group of patients Aug. 21 at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Children want to know
“Adults might think, ‘Oh, they’re young, they don’t really know what’s going on,’” Olivia said. “Even if you don’t tell them anything, they can tell by body language.”
Olivia’s book gives short, simple explanations about cancer, its stages and its treatment. She describes side effects like hair loss and vomiting in the gentlest terms, and also includes a section on what kids can do to help.
“Helping wash the dishes, fold the laundry, and clean the house are some things you might have to do,” she writes. “Do not be embarrassed if your family member is bald. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You do not have to be afraid of catching cancer. It is not contagious like a cold.”
Helpful resource for parents
Her mother, Jeanine Martin, recalled her own attempts to educate and reassure her small children when she was diagnosed. Both Olivia and her little brother had a lot of questions, she said.
“Why won’t the cells stop growing? Why do you have it and not somebody else? It was very difficult to find the answers to those questions at a child’s level,” Martin said.
She also realized, after explaining the diagnosis and surgery, that they still faced chemotherapy and radiation. That brought more rounds of questions. “I don’t think it was until I got to twice-a-year visits that they really started to relax,” Martin said.
CTRC faculty and staff helped with the book
CTRC faculty and staff members were among those who helped Olivia. They include Steve Weitman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute for Drug Development; Mary Jackson, director of Patient and Family Services; and Kayla Jackson, senior research coordinator.
Olivia is planning to publish her book online, and it is now posted on the CTRC website where people can access it for free.
“It’s a book you can give to kids, but it can also be a guideline for adults with younger children,” Olivia said. “By children knowing what to expect, they won’t be as fearful.”
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