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Cancer survivor writes children’s book

BY CARLY HURWITZ | SEPTEMBER 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Crystal Prusha said she didn’t mind being bald while she had cancer. She laughed and said hair is just a hassle.

And while she had donned a blue wig in one of her high-school photographs, she said they’re just not for her.

Though Prusha’s hair has grown back in the years since her treatment, she still has a soft spot for children fighting cancer.

As a cancer survivor who was treated at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, Prusha, now 28, has written a children’s book called The Day I Beat Mr. C, which was published in December. While the book references some specifics about her experience, it is also generalized in order to reach out to all children fighting cancer.

The book was written and illustrated by Prusha. The story features a little girl dealing with being bald and her mother supporting her by painting her head every day to match her outfit.

“A lot of little girls and the moms have a hard time with being bald,” Prusha said.

Just before her 17th birthday, doctors found a rare form of cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma, in Prusha’s uterus. What was first mistaken for a shadow on an ultra sound was then discovered to be a 5-centimeter tumor.

Prusha said Ewing’s normally originates in the bone, but in her case, it was found in the soft tissue.

“The tumor actually fell apart in his hands,” Prusha said about her surgery to remove the tumor. “It was dying from the inside out.”

Prusha endured a hysterectomy followed by 27 rounds of chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiation.

Prusha said her oncologist, Sue O’Dorisio from the UI Children’s Hospital, has been at her side since the very beginning of her treatment process.

“We take care of children with cancer, regardless of what kind of cancer they have,” O’Dorisio said.

Despite her intense treatment, Prusha tried to salvage some of her high-school activities and social life.

The honor-roll student was also an avid diver at Marshalltown High School in Marshalltown, but she did not get to dive her senior year.

“The hardest part for me was missing so much school,” Prusha said. “I am a very social person.”

She had to give up college-credit courses and some favorite extracurriculars, but she made it to both her junior and senior prom.

“I was worried — I didn’t think anyone would take a bald girl to prom,” she said.

Her father, Clay Prusha, was a major source of inspiration for her to begin writing and illustrating the children’s book. He said he knew that writing this book was something she needed to accomplish.

“[I told her to] write something for the kids that would at least give them some hope,” said Clay.
O’Dorisio said there is a library in the hospital and librarians bring books to kids about once a week.

Prusha had a book signing at the UI Children’s Hospital and a copy of the book remains in the library.

“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do since I was little,” Prusha said about writing a children’s series. “I plan on doing a series of different childhood diseases.”

The writing came naturally because she wrote the story in a very short period of time and illustrated the book in about two weeks. She already has another book in the works about a little boy who loses a limb and learns to do things one-handed, like tying shoes.

Prusha self-published The Day I Beat Mr. C, and she said she hopes to bring a little bit of light into the lives of children who are fighting cancer.

“I think that’s what keeps her going,” O’Dorisio said. “[She is] moving forward by helping others.”


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