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David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Free Books Help Siblings of Childhood Cancer Patients
Friday December 10, 2004

Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation Officially Releases Book at the Lighting of the National Childhood Cancer Awareness Tree

KENSINGTON, Md., Dec. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation recently announced a new book entitled Oliver's Story: For 'Sibs' of Kids with Cancer by Michael Dodd. The book was written to help the siblings of childhood cancer patients cope with the trauma they often experience while their parents care for sick brothers and sisters. It will be officially released at the lighting of the National Childhood Cancer Awareness Tree in Washington, DC on December 11. The 25-foot tree is covered with thousands of gold ribbons, each bearing the name of a child who has, or has had, cancer.

The 36-page book is available for free to the three- to ten-year old siblings of children diagnosed with cancer through children's hospitals and at Home - ACCO. It is available for others to purchase at Home - ACCO. Davenport Family Foundation provided funding for the book's printing. Funds to assist with distribution costs were donated by management software company Computer Associates International, Inc.

Michael Dodd, the author, is a clinical psychologist and an Instructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In 2001, his two-year old daughter, Isabelle, was diagnosed with stage III neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous tissue that usually strikes children between the ages of one and two. She is now in remission. During the emotional years that followed, in which Isabelle endured multiple courses of inpatient chemotherapy, several surgeries, weeks of radiation treatment, and a month long hospitalization for a stem cell transplant, Dodd developed a deep appreciation for "my beloved son Oliver who kept me smiling." Armed with the encouragement of his wife Denyse and the belief that his book could make a difference to families of children with cancer, Mike set out to tell his son's story.

Colorfully illustrated by Dodd, and written through the eyes of his six- year old son Oliver, the book focuses on the many issues that siblings face when their brothers or sisters are diagnosed with cancer, and offers constructive ways to provide support.

"Children's books are so important because they can help children express their feelings by empathizing with characters in the book," said Dodd. "I hope that through Oliver's Story, siblings of children with cancer will identify with Oliver's experience and find the words to tell their own story." While reading the book, siblings are reminded that they are loved, that their feelings and concerns are normal, and that they may find special ways to help their families.

In addition to Oliver's Story, Candlelighters has recently published The Amazing Hannah: Look at Everything I Can Do by author and photographer Amy Klett which follows two-year old Hannah's cancer experience, and Chemo, Craziness & Comfort: My Book About Childhood Cancer, written by Nancy Keene and illustrated by Trevor Romain.

"Siblings of children with cancer have special needs," said Ruth Hoffman, Executive Director of Candlelighters. "Adults often assume that the other children in the family may not be aware of the extent of their sibling's illness or are not critically impacted by it. They may be reluctant to share information about the illness in an effort to 'protect' their other children. But the reality is that even very young children will be aware that something serious is happening and will notice that their family has changed."

According to Hoffman, siblings may experience a variety of emotions including fear, guilt, jealousy, loneliness, anger and resentment.

"Children need to understand that these feelings are legitimate and normal," said Hoffman. "Ideally, parents will use Oliver's Story as a springboard to talk about what the family is going through. Parents can ask, 'Do you ever feel what Oliver feels?' and then listen carefully to the answer."

About the Author
Michael Dodd, PhD., is a clinical psychologist and Instructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He provides trauma counseling to adults, children and families. Together with his wife Denyse, Michael is co-founder of the "Hospital Campers" oncology family support program at Boston Children's Hospital. He and his wife are co-founders of the "Friends for Life" Neuroblastoma Endowed Research Fellowship at Dana- Farber, and are members of the Dana-Farber Pediatric Patient Family Advisory Council. Please visit

About Candlelighters
Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit, licensed in the District of Columbia. Candlelighters was formed in 1970 when parents of children who were treated for cancer felt empowered through sharing with each other about their children's treatments. Community chapters were formed in each state across the country to provide family support programs. The name of the organization came from an old Chinese proverb, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." It expressed the goal of the organization to identify the problems associated with childhood cancer and to take steps towards making them better. The National Office informs members of Congress about the special needs of childhood cancer patients, and publishes books and newsletters to teach cancer children and their families about childhood cancer. For more information, please visit Home - ACCO or call 1-800-366-2223.
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