Greenwich author shows cancer doesn’t change everything

Greenwich resident Dana Romanello-Flynn reads from her book, Cancer Changes Some Things, But Not Everything, to her son Jameson. The book has a great deal of personal significance as it talks about the struggle with cancer and how it impacts families. –Sarah Jackmauh

Greenwich resident Dana Romanello-Flynn reads from her book, Cancer Changes Some Things, But Not Everything, to her son Jameson. The book has a great deal of personal significance as it talks about the struggle with cancer and how it impacts families. –Sarah Jackmauh

Cancer changes everything, except the strength of love.

That’s the underlying message of the newly released children’s book Cancer Changes Some Things, But Not Everything, written by Greenwich resident Dana Romanello-Flynn.

Written from the perspective of a young girl, the fictional story follows the daily life of a mother who suffers from cancer and her daughter. While her mother’s condition causes changes in the physical aspects of everyday life, the book talks about the things that remain constant, no matter what ravages of disease there might be. In the book the main theme from Ms. Romanello-Flynn is that cancer cannot change the strength of love between mother and daughter.

The book is a combination of earnest advice and personal anecdotes and Ms. Romanello-Flynn says that Cancer Changes Some Things, But Not Everything helps children to see beyond the limitations of their parent’s physical state and recognize that not even cancer can break the strength of the bond between parent and child.

Ms. Romanello-Flynn, a part-time teacher of American Sign Language at Greenwich High School, was inspired to write the story after watching her mother, Valerie Romanello, overcome battles with both breast cancer and stage four pancreatic cancer. And this was not her family’s only bout with the disease. Ms. Romanello-Flynn’s uncle had passed after a brutal battle with pancreatic cancer just two months prior to her mother’s diagnosis.

A Greenwich resident and a mother herself, she said she was inspired to write the story after watching her mother’s struggles and ultimate triumph over the disease. Ms. Romanello-Flynn was determined to reassure children that while it seems as if their family member cannot physically keep up with daily activities, his or her love does not fade, but, rather, grows stronger.

“I want children to know that whatever changes, the love between you and your parent will never change no matter what,” Ms. Romanello-Flynn said.

The idea for the 14-page children’s book came after she was working on a project in the classroom with the Capital District Beginnings intervention group, which provides early education to children. She asked her students what they had done over the summer, and one responded that her mother had passed after a long battle with breast cancer. Seeing the pain on this child’s face inspired Ms. Romanello-Flynn to talk about her own story.

“I just kept thinking that it is so hard for me, and at the time I was 40, and she was only seven or eight,” Ms. Romanello-Flynn said. “How could you deal with that?”

It was then she knew that her personal experience should be channeled through a medium that was capable of reaching out to the smallest, and perhaps most vulnerable, members of her surrounding community. Ms. Romanello-Flynn said that she decided to use a children’s book to communicate her advice and experience because she felt it was a good way to initiate discussion between family members. She also said that she wanted to find a way to explain to her two sons what their grandmother was going through.

“There really wasn’t a book out there that I found to help bridge a conversation with my children about what they saw happening to their grandmother,” Ms. Romanello-Flynn said. “So, a children’s book was a very natural choice.”

She said the impact of a disease like this is so strong that it touches the lives of everyone around you.

“When one person gets cancer, everyone in your household does as well, and that changes life as you knew it,” Ms. Romanello-Flynn said.

In her book, Ms. Romanello-Flynn reflects on her own personal experiences with being her mother’s caretaker. She writes of certain day-to-day regiments that can make life easier for cancer patients, which include serving special milkshakes, or “stay strong” milkshakes, as she calls them, to help strengthen muscles during chemo or using straws to avoid physical pain from chemotherapy-induced mouth

sores.

The book came as a surprise to her mother, who Ms. Romanello-Flynn describes as the “poster child” for pancreatic cancer. Not only did she win her fight against cancer, according to Ms. Romanello, her mother has been able to achieve new heights for herself. She plans to partake in an Iron Girl triathlon this September, which will be her second time doing it, and continues to train. Although she has no signs of disease, she still must undergo chemotherapy treatments.

The publishing of Cancer Changes Some Things, But Not Everything has brought much publicity to this family’s story. Mrs. Romanello’s survival has become a beacon of hope for many other patients and caregivers around the world. Ms. Romanello-Flynn recalled an instance where a woman from Turkey reached out to her, stating that the book helped her to cope with the loss of her own husband from pancreatic cancer.

Ms. Romanello-Flynn also said she hopes that the book provokes discussion among families, helping to empower both children and parents in a time of hardship.

“What I hope is that they [children] read the book and they realize that they don’t have to be bystanders,” said.

In the fall, Ms. Romanello-Flynn said she hopes to continue spreading her message of hope when she begins teaching an English course discussing survivorship at Westchester Community College. A portion of the sale of each book will go to the Lustgarten Foundation, which continues in its research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Ms. Romanello-Flynn hopes that her book will continue to inspire families affected by cancer.

“Even the slightest shred of hope can keep you going,” she said.

To purchase Cancer Changes Some Things, But Not Everything and read more about Dana Romanello-Flynn’s story, visit her Facebook page at Facebook.com/dana.romanelloflynn.

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