Staff Spotlight: Dr. Cheryl Book, Chai Lifeline Director of Clinical & Family Services

I first got involved in Chai Lifeline in 2001 as a camper at Camp Simcha when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. From that first experience, I knew that once I was well, I wanted to give back and help others as I had been helped by Chai Lifeline. A few years later, I became a Camp Simcha counselor and then a division head, and I knew I wanted to incorporate this passion into my career. After graduating with a PhD in psychology, I interned for the Chai Lifeline crisis and bereavement team, and then went on to become the director of clinical & family services for the Chai Lifeline’s Greater New York region.

Most days, I help guide parents over the phone, answering questions like, “how do I speak to my child about a new diagnosis?” or “how do I prepare my child for an upcoming surgery?” I meet with case managers to discuss different families that they are working with to make sure that all of their various needs are being met. I also coordinate counseling for our families that need a little extra support to deal with their difficult situation. And some days, I am out in the community, whether it’s in a school, helping a class process their friend’s new diagnosis, or meeting with parents and offering guidance on helping their children process difficult news.

My favorite part of my job is when I am speaking with a parent, empowering them to deal with a situation. When I feel I have been able to help them through this difficult time, and have made it just a little more bearable.  I was once in a high school class, talking to the girls about their friend who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. As is common with high school girls, they were very emotional and highly anxious about their friend’s future. They started asking many questions with regards to whether or not she would be able to get married one day, would she have children, and I was reassuring them that many many of the Chai Lifeline clients B”H go on to live very productive, enjoyable, meaningful lives. However, they were not feeling reassured enough and continued to be highly emotional. I then did something at that point that I had never done before. I told them I had something to share with them, that I usually did not share in the schools that I went to. I told them that I myself was a Hodgkin’s survivor, and B”H was happily married, and B”H have three amazing children. Every girl’s mouth dropped, their tears stopped, and they started smiling again. That was a moment where I felt my life came full circle, and I felt I truly had made a difference for these girls!

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