At age 27, Ahuva Rachel Prager was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. She couldn’t find any books that would help her explain her diagnosis to her children. Her sisters, Hadassa Field and Sara Mosak Saiger were determined to fill the void.
“Our little sister Ahuva passed away two years ago, at age 32, from breast cancer. She was metastatic for five years,” writes Saiger on the book’s Facebook page. ” We had lots of time to mourn, plan and write books.”
Field and Saiger teamed with illustrator Christina G. Smith to create “The Cancer That Wouldn’t Go Away,” subtitled “a story for kid about metastatic cancer.” Although Max is only seven years old, he knows what it is like to have a mom with cancer. “Cancer again?” ask Max friends. “Didn’t your mom have that already?”
But this time Mom’s cancer isn’t going away. And unlike the last time, Mom looks pretty good–she still has her hair and she’s driving the carpool, shopping and making dinner. She’s not spending all day on the couch like she did the last time. “Maybe this cancer thing is a mistake,” Max thinks to himself.
“The Cancer That Wouldn’t Go Away” covers about a year in the life of Max and his family as they deal with Mom’s metastatic cancer. Sometimes Max is angry: “I want Mom to be like everyone else! I hate cancer!” he declares during one outburst at the dinner table. Mom says she is tired of cancer, too, and they must all take things one day at a time. Mom has good days and bad days:
Sometimes Mom felt good.
Sometimes Mom felt bad.
Some days, she played.
Some days, she rested.
Sometimes Grandma takes care of Max while Mom goes to her appointments. Once Max can tell that his mom has been crying. As the book ends, Max, now eight, is playing with his birthday present, a kitten. It has just scratched Mom’s favorite chair and Max is helping Mom polish the chair to try to erase the damage. He asks Mom if the scratch will come out and she says she hopes so but she doesn’t really know. “I don’t like not knowing,” says Max. “I know you don’t, honey,” says Mom. “Like I always say, one day at a time…”
“The Cancer That Wouldn’t Go Away” also features some tips on using the book from child psychologist Rinat R. Green. “Be aware that this discussion [of your illness] should not be viewed as a one-time, “get it all in” event, but rather as a process which will evolve over time,” advises Dr. Green. “It is quite common to feel that you didn’t answer all of your child’s questions properly, or that you forgot something specific you intended to say. You may occasionally find the course of your illness has changed and you now need to discuss a new situations with your child. You can always revisit the topic and talk about it further.”
I don’t have children so I’m not qualified to review the book from a user’s perspective. I did think Dad’s character is kind of underdeveloped. Sometimes Dad is tired and looks sad, but he remains mute–Dad never comments on Mom’s illness or actually says anything. He must be the strong and silent type!
One reviewer, “Latte,” declares that “The Cancer That Wouldn’t Go Away ” is an excellent book for helping young children understand metastatic cancer. “Thanks for writing a book that really fills a gap in the market,” she writes. “I just hope it doesn’t give my daughter ideas about asking for a kitten!”
There are a limited number of free copies available. Ahuva’s friends and family want to share the book she inspired on a global level. They are currently looking for contacts in England, Australia and South Africa. “If you have contact with an organization/hospital there that deals with metastatic cancer in young families, (or with families themselves,) PLEASE get in touch with them and with us,” they say. “We will donate as many books as we can until our funding is used up!”
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