The first thing I did when I was diagnosed with breast cancer was look for books to read to my children. We found a number of wonderful picture books for the preschool-aged set, but my middle-grade daughter needed something more. In addition to the facts about breast cancer, she needed a story that encompassed all aspects of the life of a child who had lived through breast cancer.
Though breast cancer is, in some ways, a collection of facts, having cancer in the family is an event fraught with emotion. Somehow life goes on, even after your mom has been diagnosed, had surgery, and is in chemotherapy. My daughter had to navigate the waters of telling her friends, as well as dealing with those who already knew. She had to cope with a suddenly bald mom when the last thing she wanted was for either of us to stand out. And she had to figure out how to keep her life going when sometimes nothing seemed to be “going” at home—those were the days Mom crawled in bed and didn’t budge.
We were blessed. We had lots of wonderful friends and family who stepped in and helped us out. We didn’t have to cook for months. Even so, there are some things you just have to deal with yourself, and a cancer diagnosis will almost certainly force you to find and face those things. Sometimes, though, it’s good to have a little help in the facing, even if it’s just the knowledge that other people have dealt with cancer too.
In Cancer Slam, I took our family’s experience with breast cancer and fictionalized it—sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot. Regardless, I hope that after reading this book, you will understand more about the facts of breast cancer and also, maybe even more importantly, see that life does keep going. In some ways things change, but in other ways it’s the same. Hannah’s brother Max doesn’t stop annoying her even on the day they learn about Mom’s cancer. But he also doesn’t stop loving her, and she can’t help loving him back. It’s also OK, and often very good, to laugh as much as you can through the tough times. It’s even better to talk about what you are feeling, even if what you feel seems wrong. You are almost certainly not the only person to feel that way.
In the meantime, enjoy getting to know Hannah and Max!