Muffin Heilman has loved books as long as she can remember. “My Mother used to have to make me go outside and play. I’d often sneak out with a book under my shirt,” she recalls. Books are a passion she extends into her volunteer work as librarian for Children’s Village and the North Star Lodge resource libraries. Each week she records the books that have been checked out and reminds patients of those that are overdue. She cares for over 580 books, CDs, and DVDs that call North Star Lodge home. Muffin has been a volunteer librarian at North Star Lodge for 3 1/2 years and we are thankful for her consistent care of this valuable resource. If you want to find a particular topic, just ask Muffin.
“The Librarian’s Pick” Blog
When A Parent Has Cancer: a guide to caring for your children (a book review)
“You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
Kahlil Gibran, on Children
Recently North Star Lodge held a Family Night, a fun and informative event that parents and grandparents with cancer could share with the children in their lives, and I was reminded that despite its appearance as a disease affecting one member, cancer affects the whole family.
I learned this first hand, as my own mother developed cancer when I was a young teen. As a parent myself, I have wondered aloud to her how she managed to cope with the shock of diagnosis and the subsequent treatment at a time when cancer was a word that was whispered, if spoken at all. Her answer is always the same: “I had no choice. I had two kids to raise.”
Wendy Harpham is a doctor of internal medicine, a wife, and a mother of 3. She also is a recurrent lymphoma survivor, a bone marrow transplant graduate, and the author of a practical, courageous and caring book on raising and responding to one’s children while making the journey with cancer.
In it she addresses one of the greatest concerns a parent with cancer has: how can I be a good parent under these difficult circumstances?
The first chapters cover meeting your children’s fundamental needs, caring for them both through the crisis of a new diagnosis and beyond the first few weeks, dealing with their grief, fear and other emotions, and helping them live with the uncertainty cancer brings.
When she first received her diagnosis, her children were nearing 2, 4, and 6 years of age, and most of the book addresses couples caring for children under 10. Though not as in depth as the others, what follows next is a chapter on family members with special needs, with the largest section devoted to teenagers, as well as small section on the unique challenges of a single parent, and a page devoted to the needs of the “well spouse.”
Another chapter talks about taking care of you, the patient, pointing out that “in order to help your children, you must take care of yourself.” The final chapter is on caring for the children if cancer recurs or becomes a chronic disease. Appendices include a glossary of cancer terms for kids, one on the major stages of growth and development, and another on helpful resources for parents and kids.
The book features key points highlighted in boldface type, bulleted lists and summaries at the end of each chapter — a boon for those whose energy and concentration levels may make it difficult to read as closely as they would like. A very special bonus is the inclusion of a separate smaller book she wrote for children, Becky and the Worry Cup, illustrating a way for them to share what they are worried about.
While stressing that perfect parenting is an illusion, she shares a wisdom born from experience: “The greatest gift you can give your children is not protection from change, loss, pain, or stress, but the confidence and tools to cope and grow with all that life has to offer them.”
I’d say that following the practical, thoughtful and sympathetic advice offered in this book will go a long way towards that end.
The above title can be found on the shelf labeled “Children”