As an educator and a mother, Beckie Gladfelter knows one of the best ways to explain life-changing events to a child is through a book or story. But when faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, Gladfelter couldn’t find a children’s book to explain it to her three young sons.
Now a breast cancer survivor, Gladfelter recently published the book she wished she would have been able to read to her children, called “My Warrior Mommy.”
Gladfelter teaches in the English as a Second Language department for Calvert County Public Schools and works at Beach, Huntingtown, Sunderland and Plum Point elementary schools in addition to Northern Middle, Northern High and Huntingtown High schools.
“When I was diagnosed, my children were 3, 5 and 7 and there were two questions in my mind: What is my prognosis and how do I tell my children?”
On Christmas Eve 2014, Gladfelter received the news that her cancer was treatable with a good prognosis, but the question of telling her children still remained. Often, a social worker is provided to help break the news, but Gladfelter wanted a book, like how some parents use books to teach about toilet training or how a new baby will join the family. She wasn’t able to find a book for children about a mom getting a breast cancer diagnosis.
Without really deciding to, Gladfelter wrote “My Warrior Mommy” on her phone while waiting for various appointments and during chemotherapy treatments.
“One day I realized that the book was complete and I read it to my husband and I read it to my parents,” she said. On the last day of her radiation treatment, during a celebration lunch with friends, she read it to the group and continued reading it “to anyone who would listen.”
Her friends encouraged her to get it published. Without any knowledge of how to publish a book, Gladfelter researched and talked to people and opened her own publishing company, as self publishing was the quickest way to get her book out there. She found an illustrator for the book, who happened to be the photographer of her wedding.
“My Warrior Mommy” is told from the perspective of a little boy and it takes the readers through the stages of breast cancer treatment in a child-appropriate way. It teaches children related vocabulary (tumor, cancer, radiation, chemotherapy) and shows things like drains and wigs. Gladfelter said the book makes it all less abstract and demystifies some of the words and the treatment.
She even brought her own children to chemo one time so they could see it and meet her doctor and have an accurate mental picture. When she had to rest, sometimes her children would rest with her. She gave her boys the choice of seeing when her husband shaved her head. They wore her wig and felt her bald head. Gladfelter tried to involve her children in an age-appropriate way, answer their questions and give them updates.
“I really feel my book exudes love and love is the center of family. … As scary as it is, it’s the love that gets you through treatment,” she said.
And from the front cover, Gladfelter said the book exudes that love, as the cover image is of the mother embracing her son. The book also suggests ways children can help their mothers recover, such as being careful not to bump her chest, letting her rest and doing stretches with her.
The book is for sale at www.mywarriormommy.com. Gladfelter will sign and sell books from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at Brick Wood Fired Bistro in Prince Frederick and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Calvert Library Prince Frederick.