NEWPORT BEACH — Hoag Cancer Center now has a small library, thanks to a group of Newport Elementary School students who collected close to 100 books, then donated them to the center today.
The book drive began about a month ago after a pair of children noticed that the patient reception area didn't have anything for them to read.
They'd been waiting for their mother, who was undergoing a serious round of chemotherapy for breast cancer, which had spread throughout parts of her body.
So Dawson and Mary Maloney, ages 9 and 7, respectively, organized a book drive at their school. The end result was boxes upon boxes of paperbacks and hardbacks being hauled into the cancer center at 1 Hoag Drive.
"The kids did everything; the students did all the work," said mother Britten Burdick Maloney, 43, who received nother round of chemotherapy Wednesday to treat the cancer, which has spread to her liver and bones since January.
Diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago, Britten Maloney at the beginning of the year came down with what she thought was a bad bout of bronchitis — only to be referred by her doctor, Neal Barth, to get a CT scan if the cough failed to go away within a week.
It didn't. She did.
After reviewing the results, doctors discovered cancerous lesions, which they are now in the process of trying to halt with strong doses of chemo.
It looks like there's a good chance of putting the cancer into remission, she said.
And while she waits for her chemotherapy sessions, Britten Maloney, a Newport Beach resident, will now have a wide selection of books to read from along with other cancer patients at the hospital.
Books are a good thing to have around the cancer center, she said, adding that they can help to take one's mind off the problem at hand.
Chemotherapy is one of those beasts that cancer survivors would rather not talk about, but Britten Maloney is one of those individuals who's strong and holds little back in painting a clear picture of what some of these brutal sessions — sometimes four hours in length — often entail.
First, she said, doctors give her what she jokingly refers to as "the anti-throw up" drug, then they shoot her full of steroids before injecting the medicine that's so powerful it makes her hair fall out in hopes of sending the cancer into remission.
"She's so strong," said Lauren Allen, a neighbor whose children, Bailey, 8, and Brooke, 4, helped out with the book drive. "One time I saw her the same day after she'd just come back from the hospital and from chemotherapy, and I couldn't believe she was out and about and actually coming into school."
Newport Elementary is where Britten Maloney donates her time to teach physical education classes. When she started losing her hair, she sought the advice of students.
"Should I wear a cap or a wig or should I just go bald," she recalled asking the class. "And the children started clapping and saying, 'Bald! Bald! Bald!'"
And so Britten Maloney holds little back in who she is and what she strives for: to see her children grow old and to beat back the cancer and come through smiling on the other side.
Because she was adopted, she doesn't really know whether her biological parents had the cancer or not, but she did say that the cancer is aggressive, having spread to stage four in less than a year.
"But I'm going to make it," said Britten Maloney, who grew up in Arcadia but now lives on Peninsula Point. "I have to. I have no choice. I have to go on."
And her children are going to be by her side every step of the way, reading the various books they collected should they have to wait for their mother while she takes the pain.