Thursday, January 20, 2011

Someone I Love is Sick - Book Review

One of the scariest things to handle when I was diagnosed with cancer was how to tell my children.  I have two kids, my son Avery is nine and my daughter Gracie is seven.  When I was diagnosed they were six and eight (almost).  Even before we accepted that I had cancer I was thinking about the kids.  How would I tell them?  How much would we let them know?  Do we feed them the information piece by piece or do we tell them all at once?  This wasn’t something we could hide, but we needed serious help.  Enter a book called 'Someone I Love is Sick’ written by Kathleen McCue, MA, LSW, CCLS…  I’m going to write about this book and how it eased one small, but very important, aspect of our whole cancer experience.
When Dana and I started having kids we decided that she would stay at home while they were young and raise them.  That just seemed to work the best for us.  What this meant is that I was the sole financial provider for the family.  Not a problem, as long as I could keep working.  Enter cancer.  As a typical man I was devastated that I couldn’t actively provide the things I needed for my family.  Remember men, by definition,  are the fix it guys We don’t need no stinkin’ help because we can do it all ourselves.  I had a reality check, which created another motto of mine.  ‘Don’t be afraid to accept help when needed and always give help when you are in the position.’   The help we got in talking to the kids was in the form of ‘Someone I Love is Sick’ by Kathleen McCue.
We are lucky enough to live by a great Cancer Center in Cleveland Ohio called the Gathering Place.   They help families of people that are touched by cancer.  You can find out more about my experience with them in a future post.  In the meantime, give them a look at  Anyway, we got involved in going up there through a friend of ours, Meghan,  who had cancer the year before I did.  Meghan also introduced us to this book.  She used it to tell her kids about her cancer.  To make the circle complete we find out that the author of this book, Kathleen also works at the Gathering Place. 

Let’s just start out with the mechanics of this book.  It’s very simple reading geared toward children.  It is in a binder form so you can customize the book to fit your situation.  You start with a stack of pages and only use what is applicable to your situation.  In our case it was me (the Dad in the book) who had cancer, so we took out all the pages that had anything to do with the Mom having cancer.  I was going to go through chemo and radiation so we included those pages in the book.  You get the idea.  Once customized it was time to read it to our kids, and hopefully get the conversation started about how this was going to change our lives.  Our help was here.
One night at dinner we read the book to the kids.  It was very understandable to them and had pictures in it as well.  We actually were preparing the kids on how to deal with this.  We even had a laugh, one of the pages was about ‘why Mommy is always on the phone now that Daddy has cancer’.  The kids made the comment that she was always on the phone anyway, so nothing there would be different.  More importantly than a laugh was the ability that this book has to bring out conversations with young kids.  The kids were asking questions that we wouldn’t even have thought of because our minds were in a different place.  Questions like ‘Did I cause this?’ and ‘Can I catch it from you?’. 
In writing this book, Kathleen expertly handles how to approach this sensitive  subject with the most important people in your lives, your kids. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs help on how to break devastating news like this to your kids.  Just remember, keep positive, it’s just as scary for them as it is for you.  Maybe more so.
Kathleen also wrote the book How to Help Children Through a Parent's Serious Illness.
Has anyone else had to deal with telling their kids some difficult news?  How did you handle it?


  1. OK, just for the record I'm not always on the phone! The kids just think that I am. Seriously, we are blessed to have such a great place like The Gathering Place near us. I don't know what we would have done without them & without "Someone I Love Is Sick". We knew honesty was the best but just how much was what we didn't know. Mom's illness & ending was so different than yours & the kids needed to know that. I feel like we had Cliffsnotes to help us to tell them. Why don't they have Cliffsnotes (do they still have Cliffsnotes)for how to handle homework issues or why it's not good to beat each other up?

  2. Thanks for sharing this experience. I can't imagine how scary that time must have been for all of you. Did this book cover when a brother/sister is sick? Our cousins are dealing with this now.

    Dana, if you find those cliff notes let me know!