Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I invited children’s author Janna Matthies and illustrator Kristi Valiant to tell us about their critically acclaimed picture book, The Goodbye Cancer Garden (Albert Whitman, 2011).
This sensitively written, uplifting story is based on Janna’s personal battle against breast cancer and is an invaluable resource for families facing similar struggles. Without downplaying the seriousness of this life-threatening illness, the book illustrates the importance of focusing on the positive, acknowledging sadness and worry, expressing gratitude and sticking together.
In January, when Janie learns her mom has cancer and probably won’t be better until “pumpkin time,” she suggests the family plant a vegetable garden:
Watching it grow, and eating healthy veggies, will remind us Mom’s getting better. Then before we know it . . . Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!
They continue to nurture their garden of hope and healing as Mom has surgery and endures chemo, hair loss, radiation, aches and fatigue. Step-by-step, day by day, they move toward their goal with the kindness and support of friends, relatives, and of course, each other. Their harvest time celebration, marking the end of treatment with a bounty of homegrown veggies, couldn’t be sweeter.