Camille Carr ’22, a religious studies major at The College of Wooster, wrote a children’s book called Bev and Lil about the lives of two sisters when one of them is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. Self-published by Archway in October, the book is available for purchase on Amazon and will also be used in children’s hospitals and by pediatric palliative care teams across the country.
The Pennsylvania Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition, a group that supports families who have children with life-limiting illnesses in Carr’s home state, asked her to write the book, which is based off of her own experience having a sister with a life-limiting illness. It is illustrated by Lela Meunier, an artist from the Philadelphia area who Carr has known for many years.
The book follows two sisters who are very close and love spending time together. When one of them gets diagnosed with an incurable illness, the siblings continue to find joy amidst the undeniable challenges. “There is typically no light in those discussions about children with life-limiting diseases and terminal illness,” Carr said. In her own family’s experience, having an extensive home healthcare team that provides palliative care, or treatment with the sole goal of providing comfort, has allowed Carr’s sister to live relatively comfortably since her diagnosis. “Not everything is sad and not everything is dark. If they’re helped and if their comfort level is maintained, they can have really beautiful moments,” Carr said.
However, Carr stressed that her family’s experience has also been immensely challenging. “I don’t want to promote that this has been a positive experience with my family. It really hasn’t been, and it’s been really traumatic in some ways,” Carr said. In Bev and Lil, she wanted to show the complexity of having a loved one with a life-lifting illness and provide a creative way for families in similar situations to process their grief.
Carr decided not to use the real names of herself and her sister or name any specific illness in Bev and Lil because she wanted the story to be relevant to many people. Carr said that since the book became available, she has received messages from a wide array of people who have read it. Families with children who have cancer and rare neurological diseases have found value in the book. “There was no specific disease named in the book so it could be used by really anyone, which was very intentional,” Carr said. “If anyone finds anything beneficial from it then I’m super happy.”
Carr’s desire to help others dealing with challenges has been affirmed in her time at Wooster. She declared a major in religious studies with the hope of attending divinity school and becoming a chaplain, a role in which she would support others in difficult circumstances. Carr also participates in the Health Coach program that the College offers in conjunction with the Wooster Community Hospital, through which undergraduates help local patients develop healthier lifestyles. “While you’re not working with pediatric patients, you are working with people who have experienced a lot of health challenges and oftentimes a lot of trauma,” Carr said. “Through those opportunities Wooster has reaffirmed my love and advocacy for the beauty of palliative care and how beneficial that can be for a patient and their family,” a message at the center of Bev and Lil.