Seeing Cancer Through a Child’s Eyes

Jun 15, 2017 | Mayo Clinic Hematology Staff | @mayoclinichematologystaff

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Original story from Mayo Clinic's In the Loop

"My son thought you could catch cancer like you can catch a cold." That's how Kelly Strenge describes an important part of her motivation to write a book that explains cancer to children. Kelly, the author of "The Truth about Cancer," decided to write a book explaining the disease to kids after her husband, Brett, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and her kids had questions, according to a recent story on KEYC TV. In addition to answering their questions, the book looks to take away some of fear of the disease while helping kids understand its effects on patients and families. And it does so "in a very honest, lighthearted, and inspiring way."

"My son, who is 9 years old, was concerned about how you get cancer, and we had to explain that there are things you can do to prevent it, such as not smoking, but sometimes you can't prevent it at all," Kelly tells us. One day, in a library surrounded by kids, Kelly decided she would write a children's book about cancer and donate a portion of the proceeds to organizations, including Mayo Clinic, that are doing cancer research. Kelly says they chose to give to Mayo Clinic because of everything the clinic has done for their family.

"My husband has been receiving his care at Mayo Clinic for eight years, and we have been happy with everything they have done for us," says Kelly. "The quality of care does not compare to any other facility you go to. They are thorough, and they look out for your entire well-being." And, as she tells KEYC, "The whole reason my husband is alive is because of clinical trial programs through Mayo Clinic, and if I can get more money for them and it can give my family or somebody else's the gift of time, then that's what I'm going to try to do."

After being diagnosed in 2007 and undergoing initial treatment, Brett Strenge was part of a clinical trial that gave him four and a half years of remission. In February 2014, however, the cancer returned. Brett participated in a clinical trial in October 2014 as part of his treatment this time around, as well, and on Friday, April 10, he received great news: a clean bill of health. Kelly credits that to "the constant education and research" to provide options "that did not exist 5 years ago." And the family wanted to do their part to support that. "I chose to write this book … because this is something I can do," she says. "How great it is to help children understand cancer but also help by using the money to give to research."

Kelly says her son's favorite page in the book is an illustration of scary monster cells attacking healthy cells. "It helps him visualize what's going on in his dad's body," she says.

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