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When Mom or Dad has Cancer: How to Reassure Kids

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A few weeks back, People ran a cover story about veteran actor Michael Douglas' throat-cancer diagnosis. One of the most touching passages was about how Douglas had sat down with his 10-year-old son, Dylan, and his 7-year-old daughter, Carys, and told them about his diagnosis -- straight up.

"Baby Einstein" inventor and writer Julie Clark has been in Douglas' shoes. "I had been diagnosed with cancer for a second time, and chemotherapy was looming," she says. "In the midst of all the chaos, I'd have to find a way to tell my children that Mommy had cancer, and try to assure them that I'd be OK. Of course, we never know if we'll really be OK, but I needed the people around me to believe in me."

Clark also wanted to prepare her kids for the changes they'd see in her. "Chemotherapy looks bad," she says. "No matter how much it works to save our lives, it still makes us feel sick, lose our hair and spend a lot of time tired and in bed. It often makes us look like we're dying, and I wanted my kids to know that while the medicine was going to make me look really sick, the most important thing my kids could do for me was love me. Their love made me more brave than I ever knew I could be."

Clark's children's book, "You Are the Best Medicine," was written specifically to help parents with cancer explain their illness to their young children in an optimistic and loving way. "It puts this illness at their level," Clark explains. "I draw a lot of comparisons between how a mommy takes care of her child and how a child can help take care of his or her mommy."

Like Douglas, Clark had a stage-4 diagnosis, but today, she has bounced back and has no evidence of the disease. One hundred percent of Clark's share of the proceeds from each sale of "You Are the Best Medicine" go directly to UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center -- which, as Clark puts it, "does incredible work in trying to find a cure for this beast."

If you or anyone you know is fighting cancer while parenting young children, visit Clark's website and order a copy of her book!


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