Talking to kids of any age about cancer is not easy, but a new coloring book created by a team in Radiation Oncology at Wilmot Cancer Institute may help make it a little easier. They designed the book for parents and grandparents to give kids to help them learn about radiation therapy and cancer.
“We wanted to pretty much describe a day in the life of what a cancer patient goes through,” says Erika Hagenbach, a radiation therapist who served as project manager for the coloring book. “I hope it brings them a sense of just -- I mean there’s no peace about this disease – but just a sense of, this isn’t a scary thing. This is something that’s going to help me, help me get better and I needed a way to show my children or my family members, how is this going to help me.”
The book chronicles the story of Willie Wilmot, a panda bear who takes kids on a tour, explaining what it’s like to be a Radiation Oncology patient. Readers learn how radiation therapy targets cancer cells and how important it is to wash your hands because many cancer patients have an increased risk of getting sick. It also tells readers about the members of the Radiation Oncology team, including radiation oncologists, nurses, radiation therapists, dosimetrists, and medical physicists. Readers also learn about “mapping” and the machines used to perform radiation therapy.
Willie also shows the “End of Treatment Bell” that patients can ring in celebration as their last radiation treatment comes to a close.
The goal is that by explaining what happens during radiation therapy the book will help take some of the fear out of the situation for patients and their families.
“A lot of our parents, younger parents going through treatment, this is hopefully going to help them to be able to start that conversation,” says radiation therapist Anna Roddy, who wrote the coloring book’s story. “People, even adults, don’t know much about radiation to begin with, so to be able to give something to help children understand I think is going to be a really great tool.”
Hagenbach got the idea while attending a conference where she saw a coloring book another cancer center had created. She wanted to do something similar at Wilmot, so she talked to others in the department and had the idea approved. For about a year, Hagenbach and Roddy worked with two of their colleagues — Laura Finger as medical editor and radiation therapist Amanda Uschold as the illustrator — to complete the project.
The books are free and available in the Patient and Family Resource Center at Wilmot Cancer Center (1.0701) or in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Wilmot Cancer Center. Parents and families who’d like a book can request one from their oncology team or email Hagenbach at Erika_Hagenbach@URMC.Rochester.edu.
In the resource center, patients can also find additional resources on talking with children about cancer, including a book by Judy Zeeman-Golden, Wilmot’s Integrative Oncology coordinator.