A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Maeve Talks About Chemotherapy

Episode Summary

Maeve Clinton, author of A Kids Book About Chemotherapy, talks about something that can be a scary thing to talk about—take a breath, play the episode, open the book, and bravely start that conversation.

Episode Notes

Maeve Clinton, author of A Kids Book About Chemotherapy, talks about something that can be a scary thing to talk about—take a breath, play the episode, open the book, and bravely start that conversation.

A Kids Book About Chemotherapy (view book)

Full Book Description:

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer, and talking about cancer and illness can be hard sometimes. But this author is here to encourage you to ask big questions and guide you through what your person might experience while going through chemotherapy. You’re so brave, and you’ve got this!

About the Author:

Maeve Clinton (she/her) is a licensed social worker and children's therapist. Her mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when Maeve was 5 years old. Maeve’s hope is that you’ll talk with your kids, give them the opportunity to ask big and scary questions, and that you’ll share how you’re feeling, too.

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Maeve Talks About Chemotherapy



Matthew: What is chemotherapy?

Cassidy: Chemotherapy is a medication that kills rapidly dividing cells such as cancer cells.

Tye: Well, chemotherapy is the treatment for cancer, and you've probably usually heard it be called chemo, because it's hard to memorize all of these names, like chemotherapy, or other stuff like gastroparesis, which is what we thought my sister had, but we'll get into that later. Chemotherapy is where we basically inject poison into your body.

And it kills off the cancer cells, but the bad thing about chemotherapy is it kills off all the cells, including the cells that make your hair, which is why your hair falls out during chemo. So not only does it kill the bad cells, it kills the good cells. So it's a two sided coin, but it's the only way to really get rid of cancer.

Maeve: Chemotherapy is a type of medicine that helps people who are living with cancer. And so that might look like a tumor in their body or cancer in their blood. And so the goal of chemotherapy is to try to get rid of or stop that tumor or cancer from growing.

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast!  I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. 

The voices you heard just a moment ago were from Cassidy, Tye, and Maeve. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

Maeve: Hi, my name is Maeve Clinton and I am currently a school guidance counselor. I was also a children's therapist for a couple of years. And I'm the author of A Kids Book About Chemotherapy. 



Matthew: Hello, listeners! We are talking about cancer treatment today and I want to be as respectful and sensitive about the topic as possible. Health concerns are personal, and while it is important to show care and empathy, we also need to practice being okay with not knowing details. That’s up to the person undergoing treatment to determine what information, if any, they are comfortable sharing. 

This episode may bring up more questions for you, and that’s okay. Asking questions is a skill we lean into at A Kids Co. We’ll try our best to answer as many questions as we can today, but I also want to recognize, as with any topic we cover, that no two experiences with chemotherapy treatment are the same. 

Having said that, let’s first make clear the connection between chemotherapy and cancer.

Maeve: Some people need to undergo chemotherapy because that's what the, them and their doctor has decided is the best route. So doctors and nurses and people at the hospital will go through lots and lots of tests and decide with a person if chemotherapy is the right route.

Not everybody who has cancer will need to go through chemotherapy. There's other types of treatment. Chemotherapy is just one of those. 

Matthew: Before we continue any further, let me share that Maeve’s connection to chemotherapy is personal.

Maeve: I've never undergone chemotherapy. I was a caregiver for my mom as an adult who had chemotherapy, but my mom also had cancer when I was a little kid at home. 

Matthew: You may have heard it shared that chemotherapy can make the person receiving the treatment sick. These symptoms of the medications vary from patient to patient.

Maeve: Chemotherapy can sometimes cause symptoms or things in your person's body that might make them feel not so good. So they might get a bellyache or they might get really bad pain in their head. 

They can work with their doctor to see if there's anything else that they can try to make… And when I say anything else that they can try, I mean, like, a different type of medicine that they can take along with the chemotherapy to make those symptoms or those things that don't feel good, maybe a little bit less, but sometimes it does make people feel a little crummy.

Matthew: While chemotherapy is a widely known treatment for cancer, it is not the only form of treatment. Chemotherapy is also not always effective, just as is the case with most medical procedures. There is always a risk.

Maeve: No, chemotherapy doesn't always work. The goal of chemotherapy is to shrink that tumor or get rid of it. So sometimes the chemotherapy, your adult will do it for a couple of months and then they'll take a break and then they'll go back and try chemotherapy or something else again. But it doesn't always work.

It's just something that doctors work with your adult to see if that is what their body is going to respond to. That type of medicine. 

Matthew: Cassidy, a listener, started chemotherapy when she was 12 years old.

Cassidy: At 12 years old, I was diagnosed with brain cancer and I started chemotherapy that year in 2020. I had 21 rounds of chemo. I had anaphylaxis on my 10th round and ended up having to have a bunch of medications beforehand. I got really sick, super nauseous after every single round. I lost my hair. I had low hemoglobin. And then I had one round so bad that I got so nauseous I had to stay in the hospital because I was just, I had lost everything in my stomach. And then after staying in the hospital, I had to end up staying in the hospital for every chemotherapy after that. And it was just a long, long path. 

Matthew: Cassidy’s brother, Tye, shares his experience with witnessing his sister undergo treatment.

Tye: My experience with chemotherapy has been very hard because I know my sister is out there and I can't do anything about it. She's just, it's hard when she goes away. And the only way I can talk to her is through phone, which is not the same. I'm sure you've reached a relative through a phone during COVID and it's not the same.

Given that she was under a bunch of drugs and medicine, It was really hard for her to communicate because of all the things that were being put into her body that were not supposed to be there. 

Matthew: Let’s take a quick break. When we return, Maeve will talk about some of the progress being made in the field of cancer research and treatment. And she’ll also affirm, as she writes in A Kids Book About Chemotherapy, “It’s ok to feel scared or worried–anything you’re feeling is normal.”

Maeve: Yes, kids can have cancer and undergo chemotherapy. There's lots of people at pediatric or kids hospitals to help them, like child life specialists, the nurses, the doctors, social workers, everybody can try to help them feel really comfortable, but kids too can have cancer and go through chemotherapy.

I can remember when I was four years old, cancer didn't scare me. I didn't know what it was. Chemotherapy didn't scare me. I didn't know what that was, but it scared me when my babysitter shaved my mom's head off because she was losing her hair because of the chemotherapy.

So, that's okay that I felt scared then, and it's also okay that I didn't feel scared when I knew my mom had cancer because I was four, I didn't know what that was. And then as an adult, finding out that my mom had cancer again, of course I was scared, of course I was worried. I knew what those words meant and it was okay to give myself time and space, email my teachers and tell them, “Hey, I'm not feeling up for class today. I'll see you again on this day.” 

And also allow people to check in with me, like my roommates and my friends all around me, always checking in. Are you okay? What can we do for you? And that was really important. Because without that support, it would have felt like a really lonely place to be.

Matthew: We’ll be back in just a moment.



Matthew: Welcome back.

Today on the podcast we’re talking about chemotherapy with A Kids Book About author Maeve Clinton.

Before the break, we explored what chemotherapy is and what it can look like. Research is regularly advancing in exploring causes of cancer as well as exploring treatments. 

Maeve: Absolutely. I've seen progress. Especially my mom was treated in Columbus, Ohio at the James Cancer Research Hospital. And my family has participated and my mom participated in this event called Pelotonia that raises a lot of money to be able to help keep cancer research great. 

And so it's definitely come a long way in the options that my mom… There was more options for my mom for different types of cancer treatment and different types of chemotherapy too.

Matthew: Maeve generously shares her mother’s cancer story. 



Maeve: I was four, almost five when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer.

My mom was an emergency medicine physician. She was also starting her own business at the time and she. A week after started her business, unfortunately got diagnosed. She underwent surgery as you and I just discussed. And then, um, then started with chemotherapy. I can remember during that time, my mom felt really tired.

Her belly would ache, she would have headaches. Um, and she worked really closely with her doctors to be able to make sure that she could continue to work, continue to be a mom. and try to get rid of this cancer. And so she did an awesome job. She beat what we call “the odds”. So like when I say “beat the odds”, what I mean is that she wasn't supposed to live without cancer. And then she did. 

So by the time I was five, my mom is what we call, what we call cancer free. And she was cancer free until I was 18 years old. And since she started treatment again, she started chemotherapy. She tried a couple of other different types of treatment. And my mom passed away this summer, or well now last summer of 2023, but she… Some people like the word “fight” in cancer and some people don't. My mom particularly did, particularly did like that term of like she was a fighter. And she felt like a warrior of cancer. 

And some people like to use that, those words. Some people do not when it comes to their cancer. And so my mom did a great job and was able to watch all of her kids grow up. And just. Yeah.

She, like I said, while she had cancer, she was in that bike race that we spoke about a little bit earlier and everything. She didn't let it bring her down. And sometimes people experience cancer and chemotherapy and different types of treatment differently, and they're not able to get out of bed and that's okay. She wasn't able to get out of bed when I was four, but then when she had it again when I was 18, 19, she was able to kind of. lived mostly her normal life until her symptoms or the things that made her feel bad got worse. 

Matthew: Listeners, I have no doubt that each of you are managing very different feelings at this point. You have been learning new information, or connecting these voices with people in your life that have undergone similar experiences, or maybe your mind has been wandering to memories of care and closeness for the people in your life. Or some combination of these. Or maybe none of these at all. 

I took several breaks as I was writing and editing this episode because I felt like I needed, at times, to just sit with my thoughts and my feelings. And so I want to ask you this question. And I want you to think about your answer, to hold onto it, while we hear from Cassidy and Tye and Maeve. 

How do you feel when thinking about chemotherapy, its availability, or its impact on patients?

Cassidy: It makes me really upset, especially for children, because we don't have chemotherapy. All the money for cancer, most of it goes to adult research. And the chemos that are used on kids can be used on adults, but not all the chemos that are used on adults can be used on kids.

And the chemo I had was 40 or 50 years old, which is just like… It's shocking that they have no new innovations. And it was miserable, and adults have new innovations, but there's just nothing for children.  

It's so expensive that not a lot of kids, if some kids need it, but can't get it and die from cancer, because it's like a million dollars. Like no one has that money. 

Tye: I personally feel very, very lucky that we were able to access it as easily as we could because a lot of other countries, states, or even just cities don't have the availability that we do because it's a very, very dangerous process. It's poison. 

And I'm sure you know that poison's not good. And it's really controversial because it's, it's just really, it's a hard thing to process. 

And another thing about the availability is that it is so expensive to the point where some people, when they get cancer, they can't do anything about it.

Grownup: Yeah,  

Tye: And they might even just because it's Number one hard to get to a place that will do chemotherapy Number two it is so expensive 

Grownup: Yeah, it's not fair 

Tye: Barely any people can afford it

Maeve: My feelings around chemotherapy is I think that cancer research, so people who are looking at how chemotherapy and different things to help get rid of cancer has been developed, has come really far.

I still think chemotherapy and other types of treatment can come even further so that hopefully one day chemotherapy can cure cancer. Or another type of treatment can cure cancer. So I feel great that it's given many people the ability to live a lot longer and I still wish that it could be even better.

Matthew: Our time’s almost up. I’m about to send you back out into the world. So let’s  think about how we’ll use what we learned today in order to step out into that world in a more intentional and, perhaps, meaningful way.

Maeve, are there any actions we, the listeners, can take to support our friends, family, or community members who may be undergoing chemotherapy treatment?

Maeve: If you're an adult listening to this with your kiddo, I think bringing meals to the people's house if they are accepting those is a great way to help. I think offering to have playdates and having that child that lives with somebody who has cancer has a place to come and feel safe in your home. That's a really great way to support families. 

If you're a kid and you're listening to this, the best way you can help maybe a friend whose parent is going through cancer is to be really inclusive, meaning invite them to play games with you. And then if you're a kid whose adult is going through chemotherapy, you can talk with your adult about how you're feeling, if it might be scary or you're worried or something you're really confused about.

Make sure that you are playing your favorite games and still being a kid. 

One thing that I think is awesome for kids to do if you're able to is go to the doctor with your parent, if it's not too scary.

And you can ask the nurses and the doctors questions too. Um, if your parents don't want you to go, or you have to go to school, then you can maybe write down your questions or draw pictures. of a question that you might have for the doctor and your parent can bring it and maybe the doctor can write you a note back too.



Matthew: Thank you to Maeve Clinton, author of A Kids Book About Chemotherapy, for joining us today. And special thanks to Cassidy and to Tye for lending their voices to this episode.

Cassidy: My name is Cassidy Stocker. I am 15 years old and I live in Kentucky. My favorite hobby is running or painting. My favorite game is really, I'm not sure. I like watching games like Survivor online. My favorite song, I like a lot of different songs. I like “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hanson. I like any of the songs from the Six soundtrack. That’s me.

Tye: My name is Ty Stocker and I am 13 years old. I live in Kentucky and I really like to do games and practice piano with my mom. I also really like to draw and be outside. So. Awesome. So we're going to do a few questions now. 

Matthew: A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Co. 

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com