Resources for Families Affected by Cancer

Assembled by Dr. Melissa Johnson

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I’ve been reflecting on the many families I’ve known who have had to face a cancer journey of one kind or another. When a parent receives a cancer diagnosis of his or her own, there are a million feelings and thoughts, not the least of which is, “my child, what about my child?” Over the years of walking along side families dealing with cancer, I’ve assembled resources for parents, children and teens: websites, books and videos. Here are some of the ones I’ve found most useful.


From the National Cancer Institute: Tips for Teens – When your parent has cancer.

From Dana Farber Cancer Center: Talking with Kids: Care/Treatment-and-Support/Patient-and-Family-Support/Family-Connections/Information-for- Parents/Talking-with-Kids-about-Cancer.aspx

From MD Anderson Cancer Center – Talking to your child about cancer

For Adults

Collins, Leigh & Nathan Courtney. When a Parent is Seriously Ill: Practical Tips for Helping Parents and Children. Matairie, LA: Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans, 2003.

Hamilton, Joan, When a Parent Is Sick: Helping Parents Explain Serious Illness to Children. Nova Scotia, Canada: Pottersfield Press, 2001.

Harpham, Wendy Schlessel. When a Parent Has Cancer: A Guide to Caring For Your Children. Rev. Ed. New York: Perennial Currents, 2004

Heiney, Sue P. et. al. Cancer in the Family: Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Illness. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2001

Russell, Neil. Can I Still Kiss You? Answering Children’s Questions About Cancer. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 2001.

van Dernoot, Peter. Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer: A Guide for Parents and Families. New York: Hatherleigh Press, 2002.

For kids — Ages 4-7

Ammary, Neyal J. In Mommy’s Garden: A Book to Help Explain Cancer to Young Children. Lehighton, PA: Canyon Beach Visual Communications, 2004. For very young children. Available in Spanish.

Blake, Claire and Blanchard, Eliza and Parkinson, Kathy. The Paper chain. Santa Fe, NM: Health Press, 1998.

Carney, Karen L. Barklay and Eve: What is Cancer anyway? Explaining Cancer to Children of All Ages. Wethersfield, CT: Dragonfly Publishing Company, 1999.

Connor, Kerri M., (2010). My Mommy has Breast Cancer But She’s OK. Huntsville, Alabama: Zylophone Press.

Frahm, Amelia. Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer – Tankerous Mommy. Hutchinson, MN: Nutcracker Publishing Company, 2001.
Told through the eyes of Tabitha, a young girl, this is the story of family in which the mother is being treated for cancer.

Kohlenberg, Sherry and Crow, Lauri. Sammy’s Mommy Has Cancer. New York: Magination Press, 1993.
Sammy’s mommy receives treatment for cancer, goes into the hospital for Surgery, recovers at home and shares her continuing love for him.

Numeroff, Laure. Kids Speak Out About Breast Cancer. Samsung Telecommunications America and Sprint PCS, 1999.
Short pieces written by kids participating in KIDS TALK, a support group for children whose mother has breast cancer. Beautifully illustrated. Suitable for ages 4-10 and for other types of cancer as well.

Parkinson, Stearns Carolyn. My Mommy Has Cancer. Rochester, NY: Park Press, 1991.
A beautifully illustrated book about a boy coping with his mother’s illness.

Schick, Eleanor. When Mama Wore a Hat. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, 2007.

Watters, Debbie, et al. Where’s Mom’s Hair?: A Family Journey through Cancer. Toronto,
Canada: Second Story Press, 2005.

For kids — Ages 5-10

Ackermann, Abigail &Adrienne. Our Mom Has Cancer. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2001.
Written and illustrated by two sisters ages 9 and 11, the girls describe their mother’s illness for their perspective.

Cohen, Cindy K. My Daddy’s Cancer: An Interactive Book for Chlidren. My Mommy’s Cancer: An Interactive Book for Children. Bloomfield Hills, MI: Promise Publications, 1999.

Harpham, Wendy S. Becky and The Worry Cup. New York: Harper Colllins Publishers, 1997.
This book accompanies “When a parent has cancer” written by the same author.

Speltz, Ann. The Year My Mother was Bald. Washington, DC: Magination Press, 2003.
A scrapbook of an 8 year old girl whose mother was treated for breast cancer. For ages 8-13.

Winthrop, Elizabeth. Promises. New York: Clarion Books, 2000.


Clifford, Christine and Lindstrom, Jack. Our Family Has Cancer, Too! Duluth, MN: Pfeifer- Hamilton Publishers, 1998.
The perspective of an eleven-year-old boy on his family’s coping with the mother’s illness.

Goodman, Michelle B. Vanishing Cookies: Doing OK When a Parent Has Cancer. Benjamin Family Foundation, 1990.
Written in a question and answer format, this book is intended for kids ages 10-16 whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment.

Hannigan, Katherine. Ida B: and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster and (Possibly) Save the World. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2004.
Ida B’s Idyllic childhood is idyllic is shattered when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. How this sensitive, creative girl comes to terms with the monumental changes in her life makes for a deeply moving story. For ages 9-12. (also published on a CD)

Swenson, Judy H. Cancer: the Whispered Word. Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1986.
Includes an explanation of the biology of cancer and some of the terms. For ages 8-14.


Pennebaker, Ruth. Both Sides Now. New York: Henry Hold and Company, 2000.
A book for young adults focuses on mother-daughter relationships and how their family reinvented itself at a time of crisis.

Audiovisual Resources

Cancervive. Kids Tell Kids what it’s Like when their Mother or Father Has Cancer. Los Angeles, Calif.: Cancervive 1998.
Kids do all the talking in this 15-minute video and discuss their hopes, fears and the adult burden placed upon them when cancer strikes a parent. The film is faithful to the kid’s point-of-view and encourages communication between family members.

Fox Chase Cancer Center. Philadelphia, 1996. Talking About Your Cancer: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Cope.
An excellent starting-point for discussions with children about cancer. Than Patient Education Resource Center has free copies for distribution.

Harpham, Wendy. Innovative Training Systems. We Can Cope. 2000.
A series of three tapes present the coping strategies of children, teens and parents in families with cancer.

Download this list.

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