Radiation Through a Child’s Eyes: 3 Questions With Giovanna Quevedo

As she watched her mom go through radiation treatment for breast cancer in 2019, high school senior and aspiring medical professional Giovanna Quevedo of Long Beach, CA, got to thinking how scary the procedure—and cancer itself—must seem to kids younger than herself, who might have less understanding of what was happening. So she wrote a book: “A Kid’s Guide to Radiation Therapy.” Here, Giovanna answers three questions about radiation therapy through a child’s eyes, hoping to offer comfort and healing to pediatric patients facing a cancer journey themselves.

1. What was radiation treatment like for your mom, and how is she doing today?

Before radiation, my mother had a partial mastectomy. I did my best to make her comfortable by helping with her medication, helping her walk and emptying the fluid from her drains.

I found that taking an active role in her recovery helped me heal. I attended two of her radiation therapy appointments, which showed me the exact process that patients go through and allowed me to offer support while her radiation burns healed.

I knew my mom felt confident in her oncologist, radiation oncologist and treatment, and that put me at ease. Before she started radiation, my mother made a small “radiation tree,” and on the branches she hung individual numbers that represented each treatment.

After each appointment, we would remove a number, bringing us closer to the end of a long journey. It allowed us to focus on our end goal and find hope in a trial that we experienced together.

Today, my mother’s mammograms remain clear, with no new findings of cancer. Although there is a chance of recurrence, her treatment has been successful thus far, and we are hopeful for the future.

2. What things did you think about in creating a book about radiation therapy that is relatable to younger kids?

I wanted to write in a manner that would comfort pediatric patients and their families.

Also, while I was researching, my main finding was the fear and anxiety surrounding radiation therapy treatment, and I wanted to change that for the better.

For example, many pediatric brain and chest-cancer patients find the process of making and wearing their radiation face masks to be a scary aspect of treatment. Having first-hand experience through my mom gave me valuable insight, and I also worked with a radiation therapist to make a radiation mask of my face, as if I were a patient.

This helped me view radiation therapy from a child’s perspective and identify aspects they may find uncomfortable.

3. How did you come to the decision to write the book in English, with Spanish translations?

To ensure the validity of my information, I worked with and shadowed an oncologist, radiation staff, certified child life specialists, and the child life director at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Long Beach, CA.

During this time, I found that many patients and families feel most comfortable when communicating in their native language. Knowing that resources for Spanish-speaking patients may be scarce for topics such as radiation therapy prompted me to make the book bilingual in Spanish.

From the start, I wanted to give pediatric patients and their families a sense of comfort that comes with knowledge. After reading my book, in English or Spanish, they will have a better understanding of the roles of the medical professionals on their team and also that everyone wants them to get better.

Your Wisdom is Welcome

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Giovanna is now a student at California State University Long Beach, where she is in the University Honors Program and the President’s Scholar Society. She is also a Girl Scout Ambassador working toward completion of the highest award in Girl Scouting, the Gold Award.