About the guest blogger: Katy Tessman Stanoch, breast cancer surviver, mother, and children's book author, overcame her greatest challenge of explaining her journey through cancer to her two children by writing a hopeful book that explains the basics of cancer to kids.
Blog Title: "From Surviving Breast Cancer to Authoring a Book for Children" by Katy Tessman Stanoch
From Surviving Breast Cancer to Authoring a Book for Children
By Katy Tessman Stanoch
I spent my 40th birthday in the operating room, surgeons skillfully removing both of my breasts. My husband and children had been planning a party to celebrate my birthday with family and friends.
That all changed two weeks earlier, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
If breast cancer is not in your family history, it is recommended that you get your first mammogram when you’re 40 years old. Because I wanted to just enjoy this milestone, I got my first mammogram two weeks before my birthday. Two days later, I biopsy showed I had breast cancer. The next few weeks were a blur of scans, doctor’s appointments and surgical consultations. It was like falling down a deep dark hole and never finding the bottom.
Then I woke up in a hospital room, 40 years old, and missing a part of me -- my breasts had nurtured two boys, defined my femininity, and now they were gone. I felt like I had been stripped of my magic powers. The mama that could help her first grader with his homework, while cooking supper, and holding her toddler on her hip, was now bed ridden, defeated, and avoided her own reflection in the bathroom mirror.
But there was no time for self-pity. I needed to put all my energy into fighting for my life. After I healed from surgery, I endured eight rounds of chemotherapy over 14 weeks. I also had several reconstructive surgeries over the next 18 months. I participated in many complementary therapies including Music Therapy, Healing Touch, and Acupuncture. The medical team of doctors and nurses cured my body of cancer, but these therapists healed my soul.
But the biggest challenge was trying to explain what was happening to my sons Louis and Maxwell, who were only 6 and 3 at the time. My husband and I were at a loss about how to help them through this journey called cancer. During this process I’d searched for a book aimed at children that instilled hope and explained the basics of cancer, but I never found that book.
I spend a lot of time outside with my sons, hiking in the woods and enjoying the great outdoors. I explained to them that cancer is a bad weed in my garden. To rid a garden of weeds, we prefer pulling them rather than spraying them. Cancer treatments usually require both surgery and chemotherapy. Taking medicine that made me sick was hard for my boys to comprehend and difficult to explain.
The garden analogy made it easier for them to understand.
When the intensity of my journey slowed down, I reread my journal entries about how I was addressing my children’s questions. I realized I wrote the book I was looking for. So I decided to self-publish it. “ Our Mama Is A Beautiful Garden ” tells our family’s breast cancer story through the sweet and innocent voices of my two young sons.
The book trailer can be viewed here.
Walking into the surgery room on my 40th birthday, I was wearing a tiara from my husband and a prayer shawl over my shoulders. Those costume pieces have turned into a superhero cape and crown. I have fought the battle of my life and won. Finishing the fight with children who stayed optimistic gave me the courage to have confidence in being victorious.
Today, I am cancer free and a children’s book author. Since its release in late 2013, “ Our Mama Is A Beautiful Garden ” has already gained significant attention, including its placement in 110 cancer centers in Minnesota through a sponsorship. The Minnesota Women's Press named me a Changemaker, recognizing the positive effect my book has made on women and their families.
My hope is that our book will help give other families the strength, courage and optimism they need during an awful time that can feel quite hopeless.
Wonder Woman Katy painting by Barbara Porwit
Katy is a full-time mom who is an active volunteer at her boys' school and teaches early childhood music classes. Her husband, David Stanoch, is a musician and educator. Together, Dave and Katy perform and record her original music. Katy has a BA from Minnesota State University - Moorhead (1992) and has worked as a communications contractor for a variety of businesses in the Twin Cities.
For more information about Katy and her book for children about breast cancer, like the Facebook page at facebook.com/OurMamaIsABeautifulGarden and visit rhythmelodic.com/mamasgarden. Here you can also buy a book in order for it to be donated. Donated books are distributed to cancer centers treating women who have young children and are fighting breast cancer.
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