Leianna is an almost-two-year-old baby who loves the world, daydreaming, and playing with her parents. Her family likes to call her “warrior princess” because she is a little girl with amazing strength, joy, and happiness who knows no limits.

Leianna spent many of her days in her native state Hawaii, enjoying the wonderful sun and the day-by-day occurrences of her siblings.

One day, her parents noticed that Leianna’s tummy was swollen. Thinking it was a simple affliction, they set up a telemedicine appointment. During the interview, Leianna’s doctor told them that her tummy needed to be analyzed and advised them to visit the Kapiolani ER that same day.

After some tests that included ultrasounds, MRI biopsies, and blood tests, one of their biggest fears came to pass. The specialists confirmed that Leianna was suffering from an aggressive stage IV Neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer. Her parents, Kalei, and Tony were devastated, and the family started to fight along with their baby, in perhaps the most important battle of her life.

Warrior Princess

From that moment on, part of Leianna’s treatment now includes exhausting chemotherapies (around 7 cycles of 5 days each), bone marrow harvesting, transplantation, and even radiation sessions. A taxing process that will take about 3 and ½ years.

Despite everything, Leianna has always kept the happiness and the innocence that radiates the purest forms of love. She continues this battle with the best attitude thanks to her family and the support of all who witness her daily challenges.

Books Bring Smiles

Friends of Rick Daniels spotted her case and sent her a package with the book ‘Noah and Saby’s Magical Storybook Adventure’, so she can give away dozens of smiles to her family and friends and to show her that despite all the difficult treatment sessions, diet, and time she must spend in bed there is still a way to find joy thanks to our imagination.

Recently, Prince – a super cute 8-weeks-old English bulldog – arrived at Leianna’s life. Leianna’s happiness went to the moon. Prince has been recently signed up for puppy training and later he will complete an advanced course with the Hawaii Dog Training Services.

Childhood, Imagination, and Books

 

A child’s development needs not only time and economic support, but also love. Lots of love. What happens during the first years of someone’s life will determine their behavior and how the new adult will face life. A great way to do this is by teaching lessons about how the toughest times in life can be navigated through imagination and love.

A book, for example, can bring that kind of teaching in an effective, playful, and entertaining way. Fueled by their imagination, children interact with everything they come in contact with, and this is only another reason why it is important to bring them closer to educative and functional material. Books are a great resource of knowledge at all ages and can include a myriad of different content and therefore lessons to apply under the harshest conditions.

Remember to always have a book close to you. Something that can take you somewhere else, where you can navigate forever over a sea of words and pictures. Just as Warrior Princess Leianna who together with her family sails every day towards the next sunset.

 

by Carlos Eduardo Guillen

 

The story of Blake Payne is one full of love, hope, and courage. A life that ended far too soon, but that has taught us the meaning of real strength.

Blake Payne was the son of CNN correspondent Rene Marsh. Blake was a joyful two-year-old who passed on April 14 after battling pediatric brain cancer. In the words of his mother, Blake has taught her what is truly important and showed her how much strength she had stored in her heart.

A month before, Blake was reaching his second birthday together with Rene Marsh and her husband, Kedric Payne.

Motherly Love

During this time, Rene grew more than she could have ever imagined. The meaning each day had with Blake was full of lessons of love and compassion. A communion that is only reserved for those strong enough to fight against such a difficult disease.

Rene took this battle against cancer as a mission for the rest of her life. She has decided to do so as her tribute to Blake. Marsh also mentioned that she received news from doctors explaining that Blake’s cancer was in remission, but last November, it returned and spread.

It is important to highlight the fact that Rene, like many other mothers, had to emotionally experience her child’s illness too, so he could go through the treatment and care that cancer demands. During those days, it is common for many parents to feel lost and confused. However, they know they are the light that needs to guide their children to safety, to normality. Beyond treatments and medicines that we all hope to make cancer disappear, there are also tons of love that are poured out by these parents.

It is important to highlight the fact that Rene, like many other mothers, had to emotionally experience her child’s illness too, so he could go through the treatment and care that cancer demands. 

Feelings and Imagination

Among these times, there are moments in which children might feel excluded as a result of trying to understand the reason behind the separation from their daily activities and interactions. It is in these moments that parents need to assist their children and teach them ways on how to manage anxiety, fear, guilt, depression, and anger.

These reactions change according to the age and condition of the child, and it gets more complex as they get older. There are, of course, psychological resources the parents can use, however, it is important these feelings be addressed, or they can evolve into disorders and depression. As Nancy Keene, Wendy Hobbie, and Kathy Ruccione describe in their book Childhood Cancer Survivors, “Suffering is diminished when it is shared.”

One way of sharing these episodes and limitations caused by the illness is by revealing hopes and fears. In this field, we have access to several resources, and one of the most important is that of books. Books help children to release their imagination and escape from their physical limitations, taking them to different realities and situations.

It is in this reading dimension that we can explore new stories and be one with the characters, as well as their life and challenges.

Books to Face Difficulties and Seek Hope

These expressions are fundamental for children and their families. Parents need to not only be ready to assist their children with their doubts but also live with them in their challenges and expectations.

That is why it is not surprising that among Blake’s favorite activities, we can find books. The use of colors and joyful acts shone a new light over a landscape that perhaps, due to his illness, was turning grey in some aspects. Books, together with music, another great equalizer of experience, help parents and children get together in creating a stronger bond.    

It is in this scenario that Blake and Rene’s relationship teaches us how to approach this situation with bravery, by sharing and living every day at its fullest, with their minds aimed to comfort each other; showing to the world that love transcends and triumphs over every act and experience, even cancer.

 

By Eduardo Guillen

 

 

baby with a book

The challenges to assist a child going through cancer and other life-changing illnesses are numerous. Therefore, children need continuous physical and emotional support from their parents.

A children’s book offers a gateway from the pain and emotional stress pediatric cancer involves. This aid can give the minor enough material to combine fantasy, opportunity, hope and provide a hint for the children to express themselves.

 

Color and movement


Books bring many benefits for children. Among these, we have the development of social skills and personal expression, which children will later use in the teenager, and years later, adult world, where they must face more complex social situations and fast decision making. To reach this objective, artists use vibrant colors, ink, dialogue boxes, and well-defined traces to deliver an exciting and entertaining adventure.

The children, unaware of all these signs, will begin learning codes and cultural references that they will use to solve challenges.

On this point, images and signs help children develop non-verbal skills by associating attitudes and reactions to different activities. In a children’s book, these features are displayed through graphics mounted one after the other in a sequence of events, easy to absorb for the children, giving the appearance of movement and time streaming. 

Learn and Apply


Furthermore, the vibrant colors, so popularly used to decorate children’s spaces, have a clear purpose. Different hues help connect brain pathways producing reactions and uncovering visual preferences in evidence.

The child’s first decision-making usually starts during this learning stage. At that moment, children start connecting what they see in the books with what they will see in real life.

Part of this learning is also proposed by artists who, through their work, show different degrees of space, distance, and alertness; while at the same time generate the illusion of movement that helps children relate signs to circumstances and actions.

 

 Color and Shape stimulate children’s minds.

 

Fueled by imagination and its constant search for knowledge, books help children grasp real day-by-day problems while teaching them how to use vocabulary and social skills.

Vocabulary and social skills


A book offers a new dimension full of stimulus to children’s minds. Fueled by imagination and its constant search for knowledge, books help children grasp real day-by-day problems while teaching them how to use vocabulary and social skills.

There is also the matter of fitting into a group. On this subject, even if many parents do not want to consider it as an essential matter, humans have a natural need to fit in a group, or at least to find a place in society. In this case, if children notice there is an obstacle to be included in a group they aspire to be, they will turn frustrated and blame themselves.

Furthermore, cancer is one of those diseases that will change children perception of themselves and how he interacts with social groups around him.

For sure, parents want to protect their children all the time by keeping them in a safe space, which is vital during the early stages of their upbringing. Still, mom and dad must also provide knowledge, through information and interaction, to prepare their kids to face social challenges independently.

Motivate children through imagination


By reading books, narrative elements such as plot, challenges, and expectations together with colorful images and entertaining characters, children who have cancer can explore different experiences and travel out of their beds fueled by their imagination.

This effect makes emotions such as frustration and the impossibility to play, giving the circumstances, fade away while developing creativity and strengthening their self-confidence.

 

At the same time, books also introduce children to social skills that could operate as an excellent introductory stage to familiarize the minor with plastic arts such as painting, coloring, sculpting; or even acting and singing.

An important note about this subject is that children, by themselves, will decide how to express their needs for social interaction and to which degree they prefer to do it.

 Some children and Introverts and others extroverts therefore both express their emotions in different ways.

Here is where we can find introvert and extrovert personalities and how they prefer to engage within groups.

As mentioned before, a book provides a wholesome environment for new vocabulary, which means more tools for children to express their feelings in more complex ways. In other words, if you combine these skills, you can open a gate for creativity and expression.

 

Books help to develop a personality

Metaphorically, a book could also be a person. If I ask you to name your favorite book, you probably will revive memories you experienced when you first read that piece of literature. You will address a first impression, a voice, a tone, and a feeling after having a pleasant reading.

 

Book characters can be used as tools to effectively communicate with children.

Children also get this feeling, much more if the book can project the children’s needs and feelings, even the not-so-happy ones. Having a ‘talk’ with a book can unlock hard feelings and expectations that may have been unnoticed by parents.

Therefore, fictional story characters can help children vent their emotions through coincidences and similarities with their story. In this regard, children will not feel threatened or nervous about engaging in social interactions because they control the situation and decide when to stop that interaction.

After the children have read the book, they can discuss their content freely, which opens a way for parents to talk about similarities and how the characters process their fears and condition.

Also, if the parents do not know how to engage with their kids or do not find the right words, a book can help them connect and relate to their loved ones.  A parent can personify one of the book characters and interact with their children. They can also use those ‘disguises’ to correct the kid’s behavior or empower them in their recovery process.

 

Article by: Eduardo Guillen