Book fulfills dying wish
Newark cancer patient authored children’s story
Tom Bogush always wanted to have kids, but cancer took his life early and he never got the chance. He also dreamed of helping others and now, a year and a half after his death, he finally is.
His parents, who live in Bear, recently published a children’s book called “Otis and His Dad,” which Tom wrote while in the hospital. The book tells the story of Otis, a yellow lab who is learning to face his challenges head-on. The book parallels the struggles Tom faced as he suffered from brain cancer for 10 years before dying on Sept. 24, 2014, at the age of 38, and is meant to inspire others to keep fighting.
Proceeds from book sales go to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and the National Brain Tumor Society.
His mother, Linda, said that although her son has left a positive mark, his journey wasn’t easy.
Tom grew up in Bear and went to Glasgow High School. He studied economics at the University of Delaware and, after graduation, worked as a software engineer and an IT consultant.
In 2004, he suffered his first grand mal seizure, which involves a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions, and was rushed to Christiana Hospital. Doctors discovered a tumor in his thalamus and wanted to operate, but after getting a second opinion from John Hopkins Hospital, they decided to wait.
Tom lived relatively symptom-free at his home on Country Club Drive in Newark until he experienced another seizure in 2006. The following year, he underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove a large piece of the tumor and control the swelling in his brain. It bought him some time, but not much.
“We knew from the beginning it was terminal,” Linda Bogush said.
A few years later, Tom had another seizure and doctors learned the tumor was still growing. He underwent a second surgery, during which he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body. He couldn’t talk or swallow and was told he might never walk again.
All the while, his mother never left his side.
“I stayed with him 24/7 in his room,” Linda said. “He was my son and he needed me. It doesn’t matter how old.”
Tom rehabbed in Wilmington to learn how to walk with assistance and perform basic functions. Despite his original prognosis, six months later, he completed the National Brain Tumor Society’s 5K walk.
Linda said her son carried his zest for life with him until the day died and was determined not to let his cancer diminish it. His goal in writing “Otis and His Dad” was to inspire others to do the same.
She said Tom’s dog Otis, who is now 11 years old, played a major role in lifting his spirits, which is why he based his book on the beloved four-legged friend.
“Wherever Tom went, Otis was,” Linda said. “It was like his kid, just like in the story.”
Tom finished writing the book just before he died and asked his parents to make sure it got published. He had one requirement, however, which was that he wanted children with cancer to illustrate the pages.
“I thought that was wonderful because they live on in this book,” Linda said.
She said she was unsure how to fulfill her son’s dying wish until one morning when she woke up with the idea to go to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
“I think Tom told me,” she said.
She jumped out of bed, grabbed paper and crayons and drove over to the hospital to pitch hospital officials the idea. They were immediately on board.
“I think they knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” she said, noting that the hospital had never fielded a request like hers before.
It took over a year to collect all of the drawings and get the story published, but in January, “Otis and His Dad” finally became a book and Linda and her husband, Tom, finally made their son’s wish come true. She said they also had help from Tom’s friend Kevin Sheridan, who is a published author, and Debra Quinton from It’s a Snap Design.
Linda said although it is a children’s book, the messages within “Otis and His Dad” speak to readers of all ages, regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with cancer or know someone who has cancer. The book encourages people to face their challenges and be brave because, as Otis learns, “you’re only afraid of what you’re unsure of.”
“It’s got important points for everybody,” Linda said.
To donate to the Tom Bogush Foundation, which benefits the National Brain Tumor Society, visit www. tombogush.org. To purchase “Otis and His Dad,” visit www.amazon.com.
Linda and Tom Bogush, of Bear, hold “Otis and His Dad,” a children’s book written by their late son, Tom.
Tom Bogush’s dying wish was to have his children’s book published.