Outcomes Offered

■ Validation of feelings

■ Utilization of imagery

■ Utilization of humor

■ Positive thinking

■ Knowing difficulties can be overcome

Let me tell you about a girl called Jill. Jill was scared. Her doctor said she had cancer. She was even more scared when she heard her mom crying and her dad trying to comfort her. She remembered hearing Mom and Dad talking about an uncle who died of cancer . . . and that was scary, to think that sometimes people who got cancer could die.

She didn't much like the hospital where the doctor had sent her for the tests. It had big, cold corridors, strange smells, and lots of sick-looking kids. She didn't like the doctors asking questions, sticking needles in her arms, or making her lie still on the table, all alone with a machine that made whirring noises. As well as scared, she felt lonely. She didn't know what was going on.

The person who seemed to understand most was her grandmother. One day she said, "Come and sit beside me, my little princess." Jill liked it when she called her that. She felt special, and snuggled up to Nana like she had done for as long as she could remember. When she was younger Nana had told her stories; now they often just sat together and talked about the events of her day.

"You must be feeling pretty scared," Nana said. "I think I would be if I was in your shoes." This was the first time Jill had heard an adult say they might be scared. "What frightens you the most?" Nana asked, caringly.

Jill replied, "Am I going to die?"

Nana looked her in the eyes, held both her hands, and said, "I can't give you a definite answer on that, but the doctor says that you have a very good chance of overcoming the cancer and getting well again. Sometimes people do die of cancer, as you know. The doctors have found some very effective treatments these days and most people get over it successfully. You have some positive things on your side. You are young and otherwise healthy, and we will do everything we can to make sure you get the best treatment to get well again.

"Apart from that," she continued, "what else frightens you?"

"I guess I'm scared that I don't know what's going on," said Jill. "Sometimes the doctors don't talk to me about what they're doing. Sometimes Mom and Dad don't talk to me, either."

"What would make it easier for you to ask when you need to know things?" asked Nana. "Would it help to tell them it's important for you to know?"

When Jill began to ask her doctor, he explained a lot more about how the cancer was making bad cells instead of good cells and that she would need to go to a hospital to have treatment with something called "chemotherapy," which was the use ofvery strong medicines to help kill off the bad cells. He told her that sometimes the medicine might make children feel sick and sleepy, that it was so strong she might even lose her hair. He rubbed his own bald head and said, with a laugh, "You might look as handsome as me for a while." Jill laughed, too.

When Nana came to visit her in the hospital, they would laugh and joke. "It helps to keep positive," Nana said. "When things get scary here, think about the good times you can have when you get back home, when you're playing with your friends again, or when you're on your next vacation."

As Jill lay in a machine having radiation therapy, she tried to do what Nana suggested. It wasn't always easy, but if she tried hard she could imagine herself being in a spaceship, off on a great adventure. She used the time, off in space, to plan what she was going to do when she got back home from the adventure.

Going back to school was hard at first. Some of the other kids stared at her and asked her why she had shaved her hair off. She felt weak and tired, not like her old self, but—before long—her hair started to grow back and she was able to play with her friends just as she had done before.

She still has to see her doctor from time to time. On one visit he said, "You'll have to teach me your secret."

"What secret?" she asked, feeling puzzled.

Rubbing his bald head again, he answered, "The secret of how you got your hair to grow back!"

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