Medical terms like cancer, radiation and tumor can be scary to a child. It can be hard to talk about these subjects without frightening or confusing them. Giovanna Quevedo knew this fear firsthand.

In 2019, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo radiation therapy. While she accompanied her to her appointments, she noticed a lot of educational material about radiation therapy for adults but very little material for children.  

Giovanna wanted to make a difference for other kids like her during her senior year of high school and saw an opportunity through the Girl Scouts. She was eligible to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award. To receive it, she had to complete a project that filled a need somewhere in her community on either a national or international level.

Giovanna had previously interned for the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. She contacted program director Rita Goshert to see if there was a way for her to give back to the community – using her volunteer experience and her mother’s journey with cancer as inspiration. Miller Children’s & Women’s let her know they had a need for an educational radiation therapy book aimed at children – confirming what she had observed during her mom’s cancer treatments.

Giovanna took on the project and hit the ground running. She met with two of Miller Children’s & Women’s child life specialists, Adriann Williams and Stacy Martinez, who help prepare children for radiation treatments. She also interviewed Waldo Guzman, a radiation therapist, who allowed her to attend a few of his patients’ appointments and demonstrated some of the equipment used during treatments.

“I was able to get a first-hand experience of the patient perspective,” says Giovanna. “This really helped me shape what kind of education and support they would need to understand this experience.”

Once she finished her research, she started writing the book. Although Giovanna was busy with college applications, attending extracurricular clubs and balancing life as a teenage girl, she made it a point to finish strong.

“It wasn’t difficult to write. However, I had to take a complex topic and put it into words that a child would understand, feel comfortable with and relate to,” says Giovanna.

After drafting, she had the book translated, illustrated and professionally reviewed. It was published in August 2020. A Kid’s Guide to Radiation Therapy is now available online and in print. Her publishers, DiggyPOD and Sprinting, printed a total of 155 books free of charge. Giovanna then donated 50 of the printed books to Miller Children’s & Women’s to help patients prepare for radiation therapy.

Giovanna is now a freshman in the honors program at California State University, Long Beach majoring in molecular cell biology and physiology. Once she graduates, she wants to attend medical school and specialize in pediatric oncology or neocritical neurology.

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