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Alumna reaches out to kids with cancer

by Ryan Murphy, Arts Editor

Decaturian • May 6, 2009

Bronze Man Books recently published alumna Sarah Johnson’s book, “Oops! Did I Say That?,” written to provide a new perspective on
relating to cancer patients. Spurred by her battle with Philadelphia Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 14, Johnson participated in a research fellowship with Matthew Tucker, focusing on health communication.

“During my own treatment, I experienced hurtful communication with friends, family members, doctors and nurses, of which I believe the sources to be: location, lack of knowledge about cancer treatment, the human need to empathize and actively participate in supporting a family whose son or daughter is going through treatment and fear of making interpersonal ties with a patient due to his or her current circumstances,” Johnson said in a press release. “Not to my surprise, I discovered numerous research studies paralleled with the way I felt during my own treatment.”

“Oops! Did I Say That?” attempts to remedy the gap in communication, offering its audience with another tool to fight the battle against
cancer: the right words.

“Bronze Man Books provides Millikin students with the opportunity of becoming staff on an active, ongoing publishing company. This is not the land of ‘what if.’ This is the world of ‘how are we going to get this book in the hands of readers by the announced deadline,” Randy Brooks, adviser for Bronze Man Books, said. “Students learn and participate in all aspects of publishing a book, from acquisition to marketing. How do you find quality manuscripts? How do you work with authors to provide editorial and graphic design ‘added value’ to prepare a book for readers?”

Students interested in communications or writing are urged to participate in the communication process. “The process begins with a book proposal. The author pitches the book to the Bronze Man Books editorial team and board. If we think the book has a potential enthusiastic readership, we begin looking into the possibility of publishing the books within one of our lines of publication. At this time, we have lines of books including children’s books, art exhibition books, literary chapbooks and the Millikin University Haiku Anthology. We are still working on our first coffee-table book featuring a photographic history of the Vespers program at
Millikin,” Brooks said. Bronze Man Books is offered as a one to three-credit class and, alongside the educational benefits, students will be working with authors such as Johnson in potentially life-changing projects.

One thousand copies of “Oops! Did I Say That?” were printed, with additional printing expected in the next year. Copies are available at for $12.

“I hope that this book will spread awareness about the hurtful communication that exists between caregivers and pediatric cancer patients and that it will assist in narrowing this gap,” Johnson said.

There is no quantitative measurement for the impact this information can have on a cancer patient’s life, but the work of Johnson and the students at Bronze Man Books is sure to make at least one life a bit easier.


Feature Story. "Alumna reaches out to kids with cancer." Decaturian, Millikin University, (Decatur, IL), May 6, 2009.

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