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Globe West People

Supermom on the mend

By Cindy Cantrell
May 8, 2011

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SUPERMOM ON THE MEND: In 2007, then-38-year-old Jenifer Gershman of Maynard was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare blood-protein disorder that can be fatal if left untreated. She looked for a book to help prepare her 4-year-old son for her lengthy hospitalization, but couldn’t find anything appropriate.

After discovering the following year that she had to repeat the treatment, she decided to write a book of her own so other parents wouldn’t face the same struggle to explain their serious illness to a child.

Gershman’s new book, “Where Did Mommy’s Superpowers Go?,’’ depicts a mother explaining in simple but upbeat language to her little boy that she needs medicine to rid her body of “bad guy’’ cells, but the medicine is so powerful that it will take away some of her good cells, too. The book’s mother, who does not cite a specific disease, says she won’t feel well and may even look different for a time, but assures the boy that her “superpowers’’ will return.

When breaking the news in real life to her son, Jason, Gershman emphasized that no one could catch the yucky, grown-up germs that her doctor had found, she said. She wouldn’t be able to carry him or play on the playground, but she’d still be able to feed, bathe, and put him to bed. She also played up their similarities, like the short, spiky hairstyle they would share. She gave him a scented pillow, instructing him to care for it because she’d want it back when she returned home.

Gershman said she knew she had chosen the right approach when she asked Jason whether he had any questions, and he replied, “Can I have more juice?’’

“He was fine with it,’’ she said, laughing at the memory. She also praised the support of her husband, Steven, and a network of friends and family members.

Gershman, who was hospitalized at Boston Medical Center for four weeks in 2007 and an additional three weeks in 2008, is in remission. She proudly reports that Jason, now 8, is a model of empathy toward other children with a sick family member.

“I looked different, and I couldn’t do everything I used to do,’’ she said, “but he knew I was still his mommy.’’

“Where Did Mommy’s Superpowers Go?’’ is available at Willow Books & Café in Acton; the Paper Store locations in Acton, Maynard, and Sudbury; and online at tinyurl.com/buymommypower.

BELMONT JOINS CHARITY RIDE: While riding in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge last August, Belmont Hill School senior Teddy Mitropoulos helped his team raise more than $80,000 in memory of his mentor and favorite teacher, Cliff Goodband, a Needham resident who lost his battle with cancer in February 2010.

Before rejoining “Cliff’s Crew’’ for this year’s two-day, 190-mile bicycle trek in August, Mitropoulos is coordinating next Sunday’s inaugural PMC Belmont Kids Ride, to give youngsters the opportunity to contribute to cancer research and treatment efforts. The Belmont Kids Ride is one of 35 PMC events for ages 3 to 15 taking place this spring, summer, and fall in five states, toward a goal of raising $1 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund.

Mitropoulos was a freshman in Goodband’s environmental science class when the 38-year Belmont Hill faculty member was diagnosed with cancer. When Mitropoulos began seeking extra help in his biology class as a sophomore, they became friends.

“It was one of those things where we just clicked,’’ said Mitropoulos, so Goodband’s cancer diagnosis “was really hard on me.’’ Mitropoulos had already lost his grandmother, Micheline Sahyoun of Wellesley, to cancer in May 2008.

“When someone you love has cancer, you feel like there’s nothing you can do to help them,’’ he added. “Doing these rides is your chance to give back.’’

The PMC Belmont Kids Ride will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at Belmont Hill School, 350 Prospect St. There is a $15 registration fee and suggested fund-raising minimums of $50 for ages 3 to 6, and $100 for ages 7 to 15. For more information, visit kids.pmc.org.

THE DOCTOR IS IN . . . FOR HORSES: Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is hosting a presentation, “The Athlete Horse: Running a Winning Equine Sports Medicine Program,’’ at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Varis Lecture Hall on its campus, 200 Westboro Road in North Grafton.

According to Dr. Jose Garcia-Lopez, a board-certified surgeon from Westborough, equine sports medicine applies to more than horses in elite competitions. The presentation will offer insights on how to better manage an animal’s physical abilities, and recognize orthopedic and respiratory conditions before they become emergencies. The other panelists are pulmonologist Dr. Melissa Mazan, and ultrasound specialist Dr. Katherine Chope of Westborough.

Audience members may be given an insider’s tour of the facility’s hospital for large animals, depending on its caseload.

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s three hospitals and two clinics treat more than 80,000 animals each year. A capital campaign is underway to construct a podiatry center and indoor exercise facility.

The free lecture is part of the school’s spring “The Doctor Is In’’ series.

To reserve a space, call 508-887-4795 or e-mail vetevents@tufts.edu with “RSVP’’ and the program date in the subject line.

CHANGE AT THE TOP: Lexington resident Carolyn Keller, founding head of school of the MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham, will be honored for her nine-year tenure during a special event Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Sholom, 50 Pamela Road in Framingham.

Additionally, the Carolyn Keller Fund for Professional Development has been established to honor her commitment to excellence in education, school officials said.

Newton resident Behzad Dayanim, who taught art and music at MetroWest for three years after it opened in 2003, has been named as Keller’s successor. Dayanim, who has been head of the Solomon Schechter Day School in West Hartford, Conn., will begin his new job this summer.

For more information, call director of development Jan Schwartz at 508-620-5554 or e-mail honoringcarolyn@mwjds.org, or visit www.mwjds.org.

MUSEUMS REACH OUT: Families with children on the autism spectrum are invited to a free program at the Discovery Museums in Acton on Saturday, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The “Especially for Me’’ event is part of the facility’s Open Door Connections program, which is designed for youngsters with developmental, cultural, financial, or geographical barriers to experiencing the two-museum complex at 177 Main St.

The event is supported by the Autism Alliance of MetroWest and funded in part by the Foundation for MetroWest.

To register, call Amy Spencer at 978-264-4200, ext. 28, or e-mail aspencer@discoverymuseums.org. For more information, visit www.discoverymuseums.org.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.

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