In Recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

My son died at age 17 after a 5 year battle with the disease, so this month will always be a mixture of overwhelming emotions, many sad, but some warm and uplifting. There were good times during those 5 years, and these are the times I try to keep foremost in my mind. Many of them were because of his opportunity to go to Camp Sunshine in Georgia, a camp dedicated to children who have or have had cancer. A few of the friends he made there have remained my friends over the years and that has sustained me through some really tough times.

These friends hold a special place in my heart, and none more so than the very talented Kati Gardner. It’s been a joy to catch glimpses of her growing from a fascinating teenager into a successful author with stops along the way ranging from acting to wife and mother. She holds a special place in my heart and I cherish the opportunity to celebrate her successes.

Katie’s most recent success is the publishing of her first young adult novel, Brave Enough. This is the story of two remarkable teenagers, one recently diagnosed with cancer the other a cancer survivor who became a drug addict and is now struggling to maintain sobriety. While these two young people have moved in similar circles, attending the same high school for example, it isn’t until cancer brings them crashing together that they develop a friendship. Watching that friendship grow as they each struggle to achieve victory over their current challenges is certainly a big part of this story. Cason, the newly diagnosed young woman, must learn how to overcome a diagnosis that changes everything she has planned for her life. Davis, the young man, must find the strength to continue on a path to sobriety in the face of the constant pull back into blissful numbness provided by a chemical high. In both instances, the book provides insight into the minds of teenagers who are struggling to deal with life-threatening issues.

I through it with my son as he did battle with the disease. There were still things I learned from this book. I knew nothing of drug abuse and the search for sobriety beyond the occasional bits of information picked up from my work in the field of vocational rehabilitation. I had some instinctive insight into the struggles for sobriety, but this book provided great clarity on the emotions and how they translate into the recovering addict’s daily lives.

All of this information is provided within the framework of a developing friendship between two young people and aided by some critical secondary characters. There is the child life specialist at the hospital whose work is to help children manage the social and play activities of their lives in the face of a devastating diagnosis. Likewise, there’s the doctor who works tirelessly on behalf of children who should be out playing or dreaming of their first dance or football game and instead are in the hospital, locked in a life or death struggle. There is also a wealth of others who round out the story including friends from Camp Chemo, parents and even the drug dealer who will stop at nothing to get Davis to use again.

That’s not to say the book isn’t one of ultimate hope and encouragement, it is. While no long-term results are provided, the reader is left with enough information to have the story play out to an ending that is satisfying to them. In other words, whether you are a romantic like I am, or a pessimist as some of the people I know are, the book is open-ended enough to satisfy most any reader.

So, in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and just in general because you deserve it, I recommend you read Brave Enough by Kati Gardner, and while I’m at it I recommend you get it from your local bookstore as it helps to spread the word of the book. I give it a full 5 stars on a 5 star scale, but as you can see, I’m biased, so I looked it up on Amazon as well where it is also approaching a 5 star rating. While you’re at it, encourage your library to add a copy to their young adult section so that other young people can read it and perhaps draw courage for themselves in the struggle to become Brave Enough.

For now, Happy Reading.