Mahwah resident Samantha Rasmussen says an idea to help her 7-year-old daughter feel better after she was diagnosed with Leukemia last year started as nothing more than that.
When Ava was going in for a treatment, dealing with a side effect of chemotherapy, or facing something she didn’t understand, the mom and daughter would write a poem.
“When Ava was first diagnosed, I had a really hard time finding things that could help her understand what was going on,” Rasmussen said of how the idea started.
“I looked on YouTube, but a lot of the kids in those videos looked really sick, and I didn’t want Ava to be afraid. There are also some books and videos out, but really nothing that spoke to her.”
So, the two started creating their own.
“We started writing these funny poems about what she was going through. With each experience, we’d write another one. It’d help her understand and deal with what was happening, and it was really therapeutic for her,” Rasmussen said.
“It was therapeutic for me too.”
The first poem they penned, “My Pop With No Top” compares the balding head of a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy to her grandpa’s bald head.
“It’s funny, and she realizes that everybody still loves Pop, even though he’s got no hair, so everybody will still love her, too,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said she collected the poems and kept them for what she thought would just be a keepsake for her daughter. But, when a friend went to the book store in August in an attempt to find a present for Ava and came back empty-handed, she got the idea that the poems could become more.
“Ava wasn’t feeling well, and my girlfriend wanted to get her a present, and she couldn’t find anything about this at all,” Rasmussen said. "There was nothing that targets these kids, nothing that shows them other kids who went through this, too. That’s when I decided I really needed to do something bigger with [the poems].”
The Rasmussen writers were turned down by a few big publishing houses, so they decided earlier this month to self-publish “Laughter is the Best Medicine, A silly book of poems to help kids with cancer understand and deal with their diagnosis.”
So far, the book is only available online, but the Rasmussens say they want to get it into book stores and hospital gift shops across the country to help kids cope, and to help find a cure. 50% of all of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to pediatric cancer research.
“We hope that with each poem, we can make a child laugh, and feel like they are not alone,” Rasmussen said.
“And, we want to present a big check, so we’re not going to stop until we are able to do that.”