In September of 2007, my daughter’s third grade class was impacted with cancer not once, but twice, when two of their classmates – two beautiful little girls, Colleen and Eleanor, were each diagnosed with bone cancer. When we received the devastating news the following Spring that Colleen was dying, I found myself facing a new and very difficult challenge, explaining the impending death of a child to my child. The first thing I did was to look for a book, and found many of them dealt with the death of a grandparent or pet. It seemed the myriad of titles on the shelves at the school and public libraries all shied away from the subject at hand: children dying. There was an elephant in the room.
I began my research and found many books about trees, leaves, butterflies, dinosaurs and other animals. To me, the books I found did not adequately explain and/or prepare my daughter and her classmates for their friend’s terminal diagnosis.
While many were well written pieces, I felt the children needed more than just personifications. Most importantly, as a parent, I knew my daughter needed more than confusing symbolism to even attempt to grasp the death of a child. As I read these books aloud to my daughter, I found myself “translating” and explaining the books, weaving them into the real story unfolding before our eyes.
Colleen died in June of 2008, and I soon realized that I could, and would, write a real story - about a real child’s journey through cancer.
I wrote There's An Elephant in My Room... as a way to reflect and remember my daughter’s simple, pure reactions to her friend’s cancer diagnosis and death. It was an incredible journey that I feel I must share, knowing that she is typical of the many children who are currently journeying through this unfortunate experience with very few books to make it real - and knowing that over 12,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States.
I share this book with the hope that its message will touch you - and help a child you care about, whether it be your own, a niece or nephew, a neighbor, a student. It is my passion to fill this need for books about children and cancer, and to give them hope… even if the story doesn’t have a traditional happy ending.
Hope can be stronger than fear if you let it be.
Told by Jill Trotta Calloway