A Cancer Companion

St. Louis Park’s Aurora Whittet creates a customizable book to help mom and child work through a cancer diagnosis.

When Aurora Whittet’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, the disease hit home for her. When Whittet’s friend Tyson was diagnosed with cancer, it hit home for her and her two young boys.

Whittet watched Tyson struggle to find the best way to talk to her children about her brain cancer. It seemed all the books on the market were for specific cancers, none of which were brain cancer, and none filled the bill for explaining to children what a cancer diagnosis meant.  St. Louis Park author and illustrator Whittet realized this was a problem she could help solve. From this realization came Mama’s Knight: A Cancer Story of Love.

“I was driving one day and just started thinking ‘I can fix that!’ ” Whittet said. “I can’t fix her cancer, I can’t make her journey easier in those ways...but I am an author and illustrator. So I set out and started writing this book, and it was really just for Tyson.”

It grew into a resource for many more. Mama’s Knight is a customizable book that can be used as a tool to help Mom talk to her children about her cancer and explain it in a way that makes sense. Many pages leave room to attach a picture of mom and her “knight” or lines to write in the child’s name or the specifics of a diagnosis. Also included are talking points for mom and child, activity ideas and coupons for when Mom needs to call in another “knight” for help.

Mama’s Knight aims to reach kids between the ages of 2 and 11, but doesn’t have to exclude others. Whittet, who lost her mom to uterine cancer when the author  was 30, says she would have been “over the moon” if her mom had filled out the book for her.

Whittet acknowledges that nothing completely eases the pain a cancer diagnosis can cause in a family, but hopes that Mama’s Knight helps moms find their support system. To this end, she has also developed the Mama Village, a website companion to Mama’s Knight and a community forum for moms to help each other out. Here, moms can find encouraging words, and activities based on the mom’s energy level and the child’s age.

Not only is Mama’s Knight chock-full of help for moms, it also comes with peace of mind in the form of endorsement from several medical professionals. A pediatrician, gynecological oncologist (who was Whittet’s mom’s doctor), and a family therapist reviewed the book, making sure that it was written in a kid-friendly tone, and in such a way that the child felt no ownership for mom’s cancer, but still felt like a participant in the book’s process.

“I think what the book’s trying to communicate is that you’re not alone,” Whittet said. “There’s others moms, other kids, spouses, your family who are there to support you.”

Whittet is also working on a dad-oriented version of the book, Daddy’s Ninja, which is slated to be published in November.  

Mama’s Knight: A Cancer Story of Love is available at the website here.