“When Your Child is Sick”

“When Your Child is Sick”

Photo credit: Tony Powell

On the eve that Dr. Joanna Breyer’s book “When Your Child Is Sick” went hot off the presses, Jan Smith hosted a dinner party in her honor at her home in McLean, VA co-hosted by Diane Jones, Kathy Kemper, Doreen Spiegel and Janine Van Lancker, MD.  Breyer was introduced by Smith as “one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. She rides her bike all around town. She rides her bike not just for fun, but she shows up for lunch and she shows up for meetings on her bike. She’s always enriching, and uplifting, and educating.”

Janine Van Lancker, Jan Smith, Joanna Breyer, Kathy Kemper, Diane Jones and Doreen Spiegel

About the book: To many parents, it is hard to imagine a more upsetting reality than one where their child is hospitalized, severely sick, or terminally ill. In When Your Child is Sick, psychosocial counselor Joanna Breyer distills decades of experience working with sick children and their families into a comprehensive guide for navigating the uncharted and frightening terrain. She provides expert advice to guide them through the hospital setting, at-home care, and long-term outcomes. Breyer’s actionable techniques and direct advice will help parents feel more in-control of a circumstance that has upended their life. When Your Child is Sick is a valuable guide to managing the myriad practical and emotional complications of an impossible situation.

“My path to the book was a little circuitous. I began trying to write after I left Dana-Farber. I started trying to write a book for children on treatment with a part for parents, and people kept saying ‘well, the part for parents is really good, the part for children, hmm.’ And then the final straw was somebody said:  ‘Well, what you need actually is an editor. Why don’t you go and find a children’s author to write that part?’ Fortuitously, just about at that moment, someone else suggested that I perhaps could write a book reflecting parent’s stories for parents, and including my own observations, and that led me to think about the wonderful families whom I’ve worked with over the years, and the work that we’ve done together, and so I suppose I did start writing this book hoping to pass on what I have learned, and also to honor the children whom I’ve worked with in the hope that it would be useful for other parents.”

Dr. Joanna Breyer

“I did want to communicate a few things. One, that having a sick child does have a huge emotional impact on an entire family. That a parent absolutely is a child’s best support, and that therefore the better physical and mental health that they can be in, the better it is for the child. That parents and the children are incredibly different from each other, and that some children being in the hospital and getting treatment is much more difficult than for others. That there are inventions that can help any child, the challenge is to find what. And also that parents themselves are very different, and some want lots of information, some want minimum information. I think what I discovered was that the more that they can know their own style, the less they will sort of get into conflict with either themselves or each other, or with the medical team. The other thing I wanted to convince them of is that siblings are a very important part of the picture and that they are very part of it by what’s happened, and that they have their needs too.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar

“The last part of the book is for the few, and I emphasize few and very unlikely parents whose child has treatment that has not worked. And I think there I focus on how different parents and children react to this awful news. And I try to suggest a few ways that conversations and goodbyes can be made a little bit more bearable, and more comforting. I guess my hope for this book is that it will be helpful to some parents, and that it does honor to the parents and families whom I’ve worked with.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar related her own personal experience with a sick child. “We never knew if she was going to make it through. And none of it would have happened if we didn’t have these incredible, not just doctors, but people who cared about her and tried to figure it out and got her through it. There’s a lot of people that have these stories, so thank you.”

Guests enjoyed a summer barbecue over looking a rather rambunctious Potomac River:

Dr. Janine Van Lancker