Cancer Patient Pens Book to Help Children Understand What Happens When People Get Sick

Cheryl Moore used her experience as a patient to create a book that explains to children what it's like for people with cancer or other serious illnesses.

Cheryl Moore thought she just needed glasses. "I was having problems with my vision," she tells us. Testing would reveal a much more serious problem: ocular melanoma. Cheryl was referred to Mayo Clinic for treatment. After treatment, she was given a clean bill of health. Three years later, the cancer was back, this time lodging in her lung. The outlook wasn't good. "I was told ... I likely had about a year to live," Cheryl says.

That was six years ago. Since then, the melanoma has spread, showing up in her adrenal gland and her brain, and again in her lung. More recently, it's spread to Cheryl's small intestine. Each recurrence has been met with a new type of treatment designed to keep the cancer at bay. She's had immunotherapy, radiation and chemotherapy — and sometimes, a combination of two at once. She's also had multiple surgeries, Gamma Knife radiosurgery and taken part in clinical trials. "I never give up hope," Cheryl says. "It's been a long journey."

She's learned many lessons along the way. And now she's sharing them in a book for children. "Helping Slick While He is Sick" tells the story of a skunk facing a difficult diagnosis with the help of a good friend, a squirrel named Melly. Cheerful illustrations by Cheryl's cousin and daughter-in-law show Slick losing his hair, battling fatigue and receiving meals from friends. While those experiences are common to people with cancer or other illnesses, they can be confusing to young children. "Slick is Sick" aims to clear up that confusion through kid-friendly language and illustrations.

"So many patients struggle to find a way to explain to young children what cancer and cancer therapy mean," Svetomir Markovic, M.D., Ph.D., tells us. Dr. Markovic, Cheryl's oncologist, calls her book "a beautiful guide to help open a difficult conversation between patients and the young children in their lives."

It's not the first book Cheryl has written. A few years ago, she published "Blue Tooth Sleuth," a story designed to help children become more accepting of those who are different. Cheryl tells us that book was inspired by a desire to help soften the world facing a young relative who has autism. "If we can get messages of acceptance to kids early, I think they sink in," she says.

The two-time author is a paralegal by profession and volunteered for years as a guardian ad litem. "I have a heart for children," she tells us. It's a heart that seems to extend to adults as well. "Mrs. Moore is one of those people that enrich the lives of most everyone she meets," Dr. Markovic tells us. "Her infectious optimism, love of life, humanity and generosity are just a few of the attributes I've had the privilege to see firsthand. She is an amazing lady, and I feel fortunate to have the privilege of knowing her."

The feeling, it seems, is mutual. "Dr. Markovic does so much for all of his patients and works tirelessly for them," Cheryl says. "You can see how much he and his whole team care. They always give you hope."

That's something she gives thanks for in a dedication at the front of the book.

"When I read Mrs Moore's dedication it brought tears to my eyes," Dr. Markovic says. "She gives meaning to the work that we do every day."

"Helping Slick While He is Sick" will be published soon and available on Amazon and Barnes and Proceeds from sales will benefit the Department of Oncology at Mayo Clinic.

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