Philadelphia girl helps write book about battle with leukemia

    A young cancer survivor read from a book she co-authored called “How My Sun Got Its Smile” during a visit Monday to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

    The book takes readers on Deana Vega’s journey as she battles leukemia. On every page, a small sun depicts her emotions — from a bright yellow sun before her diagnosis to a gray weeping sun on the days she was feeling very ill.

    When Deana regained her health, she didn’t forget the friends she made during the year she stayed in the hospital. She joined forces with two teachers to help her write and illustrate her story.

    “I wanted to help other people because I’ve seen how the kids were when I was sick, when they were on the floor, they were always depressed and always mad and angry,” she said. “I didn’t want them to be angry, so that’s why I wanted to write the book.”

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    The book started as a small project at the Luis Munoz-Marin elementary school in Philadelphia. But when the teachers saw the potential of the story, they decided to get it published.

    Judy Willner, a reading specialist at the school, said Deana approached her and asked for her help in writing a book that would help others.

    At the time, Willner didn’t realize how much the project would grow. “This book is written for inspiration,” said Willner. “It’s strictly for inspiration and hope … that if this 12-year-old can go through such a horrific experience, then there’s hope for anybody.”

    As the story was beginning to develop, the pair enlisted Meloni Kinckner, one of the school’s art teachers, to bring the text to life with brightly colored illustrations.

    Part of the proceeds will help The Philadelphia Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which named Deana Girl of the Year. A trust has also been set up for Deana’s college costs.

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