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The Survivorship Net: A Parable for the Family, Friends, and Caregivers of People with Cancer

The Survivorship Net: A Parable for the Family, Friends, and Caregivers of People with Cancer

4.2 5
by Jim Owens, Bill Cass (Illustrator), Lance Armstrong (Foreword by)

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Winner: 2011 National Health Information Award, Merit Winner, Health Promotion/Disease Prevention; 2011 Association Media and Publishing EXCEL Award; 2011 Mom's  Choice Award, Gold, Children's Picture Book; Finalist: 2010 National Indie Excellence Award ——— Colorful and whimsical, this tale aims to put fears to rest and


Winner: 2011 National Health Information Award, Merit Winner, Health Promotion/Disease Prevention; 2011 Association Media and Publishing EXCEL Award; 2011 Mom's  Choice Award, Gold, Children's Picture Book; Finalist: 2010 National Indie Excellence Award ——— Colorful and whimsical, this tale aims to put fears to rest and emphasize the important role of family, friends, and caregivers in the life of every cancer patient. On one level, it is a children's story that allays anxiety and explains how kids can help their parents through treatment and recovery. On another level, it is a parable for all that uses the metaphor of a circus to illustrate how friends, family, and caregivers—through their actions, deeds, and support—can add threads to the patient's and family's safety nets as they participate in the high-wire act that is cancer.


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Jim Owens was a fighter and he was concerned about other people with cancer and their families. His vibrancy and love for life continues to guide us and teach us the importance of cancer survivorship and sponsorship. I encourage everyone to add their own thread to the net."  —Jim Ramstad, former congressman, U. S. House of Representatives

“This journey to the circus is one of parable and message, none more important than that of a man on a high-wire and his need for a safety (survivorship) net! Deftly illustrated, this is a hopeful, insightful book and a 'must read' for any young family grappling with cancer.”  —Davis Phinney, founder and chair, Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s

Children's Literature - Terri Forehand RN
Max was scared because Dad has cancer. It means dad is weak and can't always play or go to work. Wondering what will happen to Max and his mom while dad is so sick, Dad tells a whimsical and fun story about a circus. The circus goes to pot when no one is available to care for the equipment and the nets for the trapeze artists. The boy in the story (another Max) decides that working together the nets and the equipment can be fixed. Dad's story parallels the story of how friends and family come together to help mow the lawn, make meals, and help mom and Max while Dad is getting better from his cancer. It is a heartwarming story of how family, caregivers, and friends all play an important part in surviving cancer. A great story to read with children whose parent is dealing with cancer. Reviewer: Terri Forehand, RN

Product Details

American Cancer Society, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
7 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Survivorship Net

A Parable for the Family, Friends, and Caregivers of People with Cancer

By Jim Owens, Bill Cass

American Cancer Society

Copyright © 2010 American Cancer Society
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60443-182-7


People were out and about in Max's neighborhood. It was a sunny, beautiful summer day, the kind of day that was perfect for walking the dog, taking a bike ride, or working in the garden.

Max, however, was glumly sitting in his room. He was worried. His dad was sick with something called cancer. Dad was tired a lot, he had lost his hair, and he hardly ever had the energy to play with Max anymore.

Dad went inside Max's room. He put his hand on his son's shoulder and sat down in the big, comfy chair. Maybe, he thought, a story would help Max understand how cancer can turn your life upside down — for a little while anyway. "Let me tell you a story," he said. And Max climbed into his lap to listen.

So began the story ...

Along time ago in the town of Sweetwater, a shimmering blue and yellow tent would appear on the first day of summer at the top of Big Hill. It signaled that The J. J. Owens Roundbottom Circus was back in town. The circus could be seen from miles away, in every direction. Every show would sell out. Excitement rippled in the air!

People would come from far and wide to see the greatest show on earth and be greeted by the booming voice of the Ringmaster, James J. Owens. Before every show, Ringmaster Owens would greet everyone with his deep laugh, hearty handshake, and sparkling blue eyes full of joy.

Oh, the circus acts were stupendous! There was so much to see. The ferocious lion let out a mighty, bone-rattling roar, and the crowd was instantly silenced. The bravest man on earth, King Eddie, unflinchingly placed his entire head into the lion's mouth! Then the elephants marched in, wearing dazzling headdresses over their gigantic ears. They balanced on balls, rolled over, danced, and even jumped rope.

The clowns, led by Bee-Roll and Dave Zee, made everyone — young and old — laugh so hard that many wet their pants. Then Georgie's Juggling Jesters rode in on their unicycles, tossing all kinds of things into the air: bowling balls and pins, flaming swords, goldfish still in their bowls, and even small children! Only children who volunteered were juggled, of course, but many lined up for a chance to be in the act!

Leading off the high wire was Lancelot Legstrong in yellow, the toughest man on earth. Lance rode his bicycle with great bravado across the high wire — forward, backwards and, not to be believed, upside down. He finished his act by cycling across the high wire, carrying his entire family on his shoulders.

Lancelot was followed by Mario the Marvelous, wearing his signature zebra-striped leotard. Mario thrilled the crowd with his gravity-defying leaps across the wire.

The crowd cheered the loudest when the Flying Boonanas took to the sky. They swung on the high wire, way above everyone's head. Every acrobat showed the incredible grace and strength of a gymnast and moved perfectly in sync with all the other acrobats.

Next, the Boonanas took to the trapeze. They swung back and forth and zoomed every which way in the air. Then they launched themselves into flight toward a waiting partner who grasped their hands just in the nick of time.

Then, one year the circus rolled into town, but everything had changed. The tent was full of holes and leaked. The organ was out of tune. Even more worrisome, the safety net was worn out. It could no longer catch a fallen trapeze artist. Many had already slipped through big gaping holes and bonked on the ground. The Boonanas and other high wire acts were afraid to perform; some had even quit the act. The circus was in danger of closing its doors forever.

The people of Sweetwater wondered how this could happen, and soon they found out. J. J. Owens, the Circus Ringmaster, was sick with cancer. He didn't have the energy to keep up repairs. The performers were all worried about him, too. After all, they were like a big family. Still, no one knew quite what to do. The townspeople were determined to help. They gathered with the circus performers and came up with a plan.

Everybody volunteered for tasks they were good at doing. Some people cooked meals for J. J. Owens; others drove him to his doctor appointments. The huge mounds of circus laundry were washed and ironed. The tent was patched and sewn. The organ was tuned, and the poles were painted. While J. J. Owens was in the hospital and afterwards, there was always a friend to stay with him and keep him company.

The best idea came from a boy named Max. With everybody's help, Max said, they could fix the safety net. The high wire acts and acrobats could perform again, and the circus would return to its former glory.

And that is exactly what happened. The gracious townspeople of Sweetwater went to work. Each and every person brought a thread to add to the net. Some were long. Some were short. And they came in every color of the rainbow. The people wove together their threads to make a much stronger safety net than ever before! With love and care from family and friends, a Survivorship Net was created.

That is when things really began to change. The acrobats returned to the circus. The Boonanas, Lancelot, and the rest of his high wire family returned. Even Mario came out of retirement to rejoin the circus. The Survivorship Net attracted new acts like Phinneas Davis and his son, Taylor, "The Human Cannonballs." Once again, the J. J. Owens Roundbottom Circus could be called "The Most Amazing Show on Earth!"

Max smiled. It was a good story.

"Dad, was that story real?" Max asked.

His dad nodded. "When the doctors told me that I was sick, I felt just like that strong man carrying his family across the high wire — but without a safety net below us. It did not take long before I found out that I needed help just like the people in the circus story. And just like they did years ago, everybody around us pitched in to add a thread to our "Survivorship Net."

Many people helped me build my Survivorship Net, just like the story said — one thread at a time. First were the many doctors who treated me with such great care. Next were the nurses who were like angels watching over me. And I would have been lost without the loving support of your mom. The many friends who brought us food helped us get through each day.

From raking leaves to lifting things, everyone pitched in to help us. My boss added a thread by giving me a flexible work schedule so I could continue contributing at work. Our congressman and senators added threads with laws to help and protect the rights of patients. Big brother John and my buddies who kept me active weaved in their threads as well. The many people who prayed for healing added threads of faith and hope. Their support boosted our spirits and gave us faith that better days were ahead. And I did what I could to get better and stay healthy like exercising, which works like medicine does.

"Dad, how can I add a thread to The Survivorship Net?"

"Max, you've already added so many, just by being near and helping me and your mom."

"But I want to add more, Dad."

"Okay, Max, let's sit down with Mom tonight and make a list."

"Great, but isn't there something I could do for you right now?"

"Well, Max, I could sure use some company on a bike ride around the block."

In a flash, Max jumped out of his dad's lap and was snapping on his bike helmet before Dad was even out of his chair. As they cruised down the street, Max had a huge smile on his face that stretched from ear to ear.

The Survivorship Net has come full circle, and I am returning some of the care and kindness shown to me by adding threads to the Survivorship Net for other people. I give speeches and advocate for better care and patients' rights. I connect with other survivors by phone or by writing messages of support. By sharing my story, I am helping others become survivors just like me. I tell everyone that cancer may slow you down for awhile, but it does not have to run your life. Cancer limits you only if you let it.


Excerpted from The Survivorship Net by Jim Owens, Bill Cass. Copyright © 2010 American Cancer Society. Excerpted by permission of American Cancer Society.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jim Owens was an engineer, businessman, athlete, and avid cyclist. He received the Triumph Award from the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 2005, and he rode with Lance Armstrong during the Foundation's 2004 Tour of Hope. Bill Cass is a shoe designer and illustrator for Nike who has done illustration work for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Lance Armstrong is an acclaimed athlete who won the Tour de France a record-breaking seven times. A survivor of testicular cancer, he is also the founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and support. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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The Survivorship Net: A Parable for the Family, Friends, and Caregivers of People with Cancer 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
MomsChoiceAwards More than 1 year ago
The Survivorship Net is a recipient of the prestigious Mom's Choice Award. The Mom's Choice Awards honors excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. An esteemed panel of judges includes education, media and other experts as well as parents, children, librarians, performing artists, producers, medical and business professionals, authors, scientists and others. A sampling of the panel members includes: Dr. Twila C. Liggett, ten-time Emmy-winner, professor and founder of PBS's Reading Rainbow; Julie Aigner-Clark, Creator of Baby Einstein and The Safe Side Project; Jodee Blanco, and New York Times best-selling Author; LeAnn Thieman, motivational speaker and coauthor of seven Chicken Soup For The Soul books. . Parents and educators look for the Mom's Choice Awards seal in selecting quality materials and products for children and families.
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