When someone is very sick, it can be difficult to know what to say. Sometimes people get so uncomfortable, they don’t say anything at all. It’s even more confusing when the person who’s sick is a child. It’s something actress Vanessa Bayer experienced firsthand when she dealt with leukemia as a teenager. Bayer, who was on “Saturday Night Live” for 7 seasons, was 15 when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and was treated for 2 and a half years (with no subsequent recurrences), an experience she says she got through with a group of close friends.
Bayer has now written a children’s book, “How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear?” (Feiwel & Friends) out now, to comfort sick kids and help their friends and relatives through an emotional time. Illustrated by Rosie Butcher, the book offers warm advice and encouragement. “You and your friend Bear/are an excellent pair/But if your friend gets sick/And can’t do all the things that you two love to do … You may wonder — how do you care for a very sick Bear?” it asks.
“When I was sick I couldn’t go to school, but luckily I had a wonderful group of friends who rallied around me,” Bayer recently told Parade.
“They told me all the school gossip and all the things going on that seem very important when you’re in ninth grade … Then, when I felt healthy enough to go to things, they would include me, and when I couldn’t, they made me feel like I was still a part of things. There’s nothing like that human connection.”
The book has gotten raves on social media, including an Instagram post from Amy Schumer, who wrote: “It is such a beautiful book and everyone should buy it for their children. Especially if they have dealt with illness. Vanessa [had] leukemia as a teenager, and I wish her friends had this book back then! I am so proud of her and this book she has made come to life.”