Monday, October 28, 2013

Frankly Speaking to Kids about Cancer

Had a great conversation with Frank McCloy, News Director of WCHE AM. We spoke about my personal experiences with breast cancer, talking to kids about cancer and the creation of our book Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer... a helpful, hopeful book for kids. Frank also spoke with the Medical Director of the Cancer Center at Paoli HospitalDr. Michael Dabrow in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Not Always an Easy Conversation
illustration from the book
Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings:When someone you love has cancer...a hopeful, helpful book for kids
©McVicker&Hersh, LLC
Listen here to our conversation and WCHE AM.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Couldn't Have Said it Better

Here we are again- Breast Cancer awareness month and with that a wonderful conversation with Richard Gaw, staff writer with Chester County publications. Richard and I sat pond side in my backyard last week and spoke about my experience with cancer, the creation of our book Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings, life and my art.

The results of our brief time together is an insightful and in depth article in the October 23, 2013 issue of the Chester County Press called Small Things with Great Love.

Thanks Richard for being a butterfly for our book and helping it continue its journey to help kids understand cancer.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Taking Off

This recent email touched our hearts and reminds us that the butterfly in Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings has power beyonds the pages of the book.

"I can't tell you how much your book has meant to us. 

(Our son) Benjamin felt very special that it was personalized for him, and it brought tears to both our eyes when we read it together the other night. It certainly answered many of his questions and concerns. For example, I told him about my husband's cancer before we read the book, and his first question was..."is it contagious?"

Illustration from Butterfly Kisses andWishes on Wings:
When someone you love has cancer... a hopeful, helpful book for kids

©McVicker&Hersh, LLC
Your illustrations are so beautiful! 

I am so glad that I came across your book, and I appreciate you making a special effort to get it to me so quickly. 

Thank you, again, for everything!

Janet Wilson

Thank you Janet, sending your family and you... wishes on wings.
Ellen & Nanci

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Relieve the Stress, Take a Free Trip

This is a guest post written by Greg Pierce. Greg is a 3x cancer survivor and community manager for

Everyone Needs a Break Sometimes
from the book
Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer...a hopeful, helpful book for kids
©2013McVicker & Hersh, LLC
Sometimes you just need to get away. Fortunately for people with cancer, there are ways that you can! Here are a four resources that you can research and use to relieve stress, take a trip, find free ways to travel, and make new connections with people who are also fighting cancer. 

  1. The National Patient Travel Center (NPTC) is an organization that provides information to patients about charitable, long-distance medical transportation; NPTC provides referrals and helps patients get where they need to go for free. There is no charge for this service. To find more about free travel read this article on Free Flights for Cancer Patients.
  2. First Descents is an organization that offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure of their choice. First Descents empowers young adults to take back their life and spend time outdoors. Activities include surfing, rock climbing, and white water rafting. The only expense may be paying for transportation, but they are willing to assist you if need be.
  3. Reel Recovery is a national non-profit organization that holds free fly-fishing retreats for men recovering from all forms of cancer with a mission to provide support through the healing powers of nature, sport, and close interaction with others who have similar journeys. Reel Recovery provides a safe and reflective environment, expert fly-fishing instruction, and information on cancer resources. The retreats facilitate networking, build empathy, and help men with cancer discover new insights from their peers. 
  4. Casting for Recovery is an organization that provides weekend retreats for women with breast cancer at no cost. The women are given the opportunity to learn the sport of fly-fishing, interact with one another, network, gain empathy, and receive the therapeutic quality of the outdoors. The weekend retreats also use counseling, educational services, and have therapists and health care professionals present. To find more resources like Casting for Recovery read this article on 9 Valuable Resources for Cancer Patients

If you need help with travel expenses, need to relieve stress, or want to get away with other people of your same diagnosis, inquire about the resources above. Also, don’t be reluctant to plan your own personal trip with your family and friends. 

A lot of cancer survivors say that what helped them decompress the most was getting away, relaxing, and spending stress-free (and cancer-free!) time with loved ones. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What are you Still Learning?

And While You're Here...
Water color pencils, collage
12" x 7.25"
“I have learned to live my life one step, one breath, and one moment at a time, but it was a long road. 

I set out on a journey of love, seeking truth, peace and understanding. 

I am still learning.”

Muhammad Ali [Cassius Clay] (born 1942);

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Riff on Resilience

In last week's Life Lesson- Learning Resiliency blog post we shared an excerpt from a KCSD Fall Newsletter about the importance and value of teaching our children resiliency.  Later in the week, in Sandy Blows, I wrote about an artist friend of mine, Betsey Regan who in the wake of the Super Storm Sandy, and in the midst of the destruction of her home, and turmoil of her life- is still painting.  That's resilience- and inspiring.

At the end of the post, I asked the question "who inspires you." 

Artist and president of Cross World Connections, Junko Wong responded with this: 

They do.  
 These are kids from Fukushima, where the earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011.  

There is a expat that helps these kids express their hidden anxiety through drawings. It help them to deal with their fears and starts them to heal.

This is a summer camp for the kids who are still living there. The camp is run by volunteers in an area, very north of Fukushima. Still the same prefecture but protected by a mountain range that keep out radiation. ( nature is amazing). They come here during their school break.

According to the government they are located outside of the radiation contaminated zone.  The way they measure the rate of radiation permissible for humans have changed since the disaster occurred. It's higher now.  And, these kids who still live in high radiation levels have no where to move to.  

We have learned that it is best for all of us who live this way to RESET our bodies every 3-6 months. Taking in clean air, clean water and clean food and getting rid of the heavy metals in our bodies as best as possible. 

 The kids have so much fun and play very hard and RESET their bodies and return to life back in the zone. 
All photographs by Komera no Mori
So these kids are my inspiration. They are so beautiful.

To learn more about the camp or to buy a very cool t-shirt that supports the children of Fukushima visit

Thank you Junko!

Want to Riff on Resilience too...Who inspires you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Life Lesson- Learning Resiliency

Finding My Way
Graphite, pastel, collage on Rives Black
30" x 22"
A couple of years ago, I remember telling someone that one skill I really want my children to develop is resilience.  Well, it seems that life always gives you what you ask for (!) and we have had lots of opportunities in our family to work on resilience. Life is full of curve balls, unexpected surprises- both good and bad, and the ability to face, navigate and weather these incidents is crucial for our health, happiness and even survival. And as we look around, these lessons are everywhere, big and small, whether our children are dealing with the flu, midterms, busy schedules, displacement from Super Storm Sandy, or the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut.

In the fall issue of school district newsletter, district social worker Kate Rentschler and psychologist Dr. Loren Pearson wrote a wonderful article titled How to Raise a Resilient Child, adapted from the National Association of School Psychologists and work by Karen Reivick, PhD, University of Pennsylvania.  With Mrs. Rentschler's permission here are some key points.

Resilience is not all or nothing.
It can come in different amounts, at different times, and in different circumstances. Research has identified important ingredients that we can most easily teach our children.

Emotion awareness and control.
Resilient children experience a broad spectrum of emotions- it is part of our human experience. The main difference between a more resilient child from a less resilient child is that they don't get "stuck" in an emotion.  "Although they might feel sad or scared, these feelings don't prevent them from coping with the situation and moving forward."
Lots of Different Feelings
from Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone  you love has cancer... a hopeful, helpful book for kids.
©2013McVicker&Hersh, LLC

Realistic Optimism.
Research is clear: Optimistic people are happier, healthier, more productive, better problem solvers, have more meaningful relationships, etc.  Research also shows that kids can learn these skills and that in doing so can protect them from depression and anxiety. Resilience is about seeing seeing yourself and the situation as optimistically as possible- within the bounds of reality.

Impulse Control.
It's the "stop and think" message before you say or act.  We all have impulses to say and think things that are not often in our best interest. (I still have that as one of my daily affirmations! It's a great daily reminder for our children and ourselves.)

Flexible Thinking.
The ability to view problems from several different perspectives teaches us to be problem solvers.
"Thinking Steps- Stop, Think, Plan, Check" can build flexible thinking."

Self- efficacy.
Self efficacy is about effecting change in the world. It's the ability to know your self, your strengths and weaknesses, and how to use your strengths in navigating the challenges in life. "Helping your child identify his/her strengths or talents will help build self- efficacy."

Empathy is our ability to "put yourselves in others' shoes."  This ability helps foster strong connections to others. Some landmark studies have shown that " children who have at least one enduring relationship with a caring adult ( a parent, a neighbor, a teacher, a coach) - do well and can overcome even the most difficult hardships.  Our son Nate can attest to this, in addition to having the loving support of his family, his friends, his teachers, counselor and coaches reached out to him at every step of the way after his injury in 2011.  These connections were and still are critical to Nate's resilience.

Reaching Out.
"Resilient children are not afraid to take risks... Their optimism fuels them, and their self efficacy gives them the confidence to try, even when that risk means risking failure."

These are all skills we can nurture in our children and continue to develop in ourselves.