Shaquita Estes and her daughter Lexie have used their experience of battling breast cancer as a family to inspire others through their book, “No Hair, Don’t Care!”
Their book was released on Feb. 11, which was also Lexie’s ninth birthday. She was able to read the book to her class at Brooks Elementary School on her birthday.
When Shaquita Estes was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the hardest things she said she had to deal with was the loss of her hair from chemotherapy.
It was also hard for her to find ways to explain what was happening with her to Lexie. She said she couldn’t find books that show people who look like them, or who they can relate to in their cancer journey.
“One day, we were sitting down talking, and she could really remember so much of this journey that we had been on as a family for a year,” Estes said. “So then I said, ‘Why don’t we put it to a book? This would be therapeutic, to write down our journey.’”
“No Hair, Don’t Care!” is told through Lexie’s eyes as she watches her mom battle breast cancer. Estes said Lexie wrote down her thoughts, and then she went back and helped Lexie put the book together.
Their book is about how, as a family, they navigated the physical and emotional changes chemotherapy brought. Lexie was having a hard time dealing with what her mom was going to look like on the outside while undergoing treatment.
Estes said hair is important, especially to African American women, and losing her hair was one of the physical changes brought on by chemotherapy that she and her daughter both had a hard time dealing with.
After six months of chemo, 33 days of radiation and four months of oral chemo, Estes said there is currently no evidence of disease in her body. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.
Estes said they decided to release the book on Lexie’s birthday because they both worked so hard on it and because they felt like it would signify a new beginning.
“Even though some things are hard, all you have to do is push through it, and your life will get better,” Lexie said.
Estes said Lexie was excited to see the pictures and the colors of the book in person. When it was released, she promoted it around her school and enjoyed her teachers asking her about being an author.
The book was self-published through DG Self-Publishing, based out of Arizona. The company helps authors self-publish children’s books, according to www.dgselfpublishing.com .
“No Hair, Don’t Care!” is available on Amazon, and signed copies are available at www.quitasquest.com .
Estes said they were planning on hosting a book signing when “No Hair, Don’t Care!” was released, but because of COVID-19, they’ve had to hold off.
She said they were able to read the book at Inman Elementary School in Fayetteville and Ivy Prep Academy in Atlanta before schools were closed. Estes also held a virtual story read for Charge Up Campaign, a cancer organization, in April.
She said she plans to participate and share her book at Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities in October.
Estes said she still plans to hold a book signing when it is safe to do so. She has been working from home during COVID-19 because she is still immunocompromised, and she works for Emory Healthcare as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Her position in health care was another way she could understand why kids sometimes have a hard time understanding cancer and hair loss.
Lexie was 7 years old when Estes received her cancer diagnosis, which is a time developmentally when kids begin to understand death, she said.
Estes added that children are more aware of their surroundings than parents may think, and it is important to discuss what cancer is and how it can affect family members with children.
Estes said she’s glad she was able to share her journey with Lexie because it has helped her heal.
While working from home, Estes said she is taking preventive measures to stay healthy and she’s trying to get back to a sense of normalcy.
“It’s been an adjustment and a blessing,” Estes said. “I’m just really embracing the time with my family. It makes you appreciate the time you have.”
Estes said now that the book is released, she hopes it will bring a sense of unity and help parents be able to have open conversations with their children about cancer.
She also said she hopes those who read the book will see that a family can make it through a similar journey, as long as they stick together.
“I hope it brings joy and love to people’s hearts to see a family work together,” Estes said.