When the remnants of Hurricane Ike blasted through central Ohio on Sept. 14, 2008, many Columbus residents were plunged into darkness for days on end as a result of extended power outages.

When the remnants of Hurricane Ike blasted through central Ohio on Sept. 14, 2008, many Columbus residents were plunged into darkness for days on end as a result of extended power outages.

The Kraft family of Clintonville was already in the dark as to what was ailing dad Brian.

The Philadelphia native and freelance illustrator, who once worked in that capacity for ThisWeek Community Newspapers, was awakened in the middle of the night weeks earlier by searing pain in his groin. It was like nothing he'd ever experienced before.

Luckily, Brian Kraft said last week, he already had a routine physical scheduled. Presuming he'd somehow developed a hernia from playing basketball, Kraft kept the appointment, only to be told that wasn't it at all.

He eventually had a CAT Scan and other tests, and then, still in the darkness of the power failure, Brian and Nicole Kraft sat in a doctor's office and were told, "You either have lymphoma or leukemia."

It's not the sort of thing anyone ever wants to hear.

"You can't believe it's happening to you," Brian Kraft recalled last week. "I was more worried about my wife freaking out."

"I guess I blanched," said Nicole Kraft, a journalism professor at Ohio State University. "I got really hot and really cold."

She also got really frustrated; her every instinct told her to go home, go online and research the heck out of both forms of blood cancer. But with the power out, she couldn't.

Eventually, Brian Kraft was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

He got treatment.

And he got better.

But that's not what this story is about. This is about what Brian Kraft did after he and Nicole could not find any books to help them in explaining things to their then-7-year-old son, Daniel Levi Kraft.

He wrote and illustrated his own book on the subject. Titled "The Year My Dad Went Bald: A Tale of Cancer, Chemo and Coping with a Cold Head" is told from the perspective of Danny, who will turn 10 in February.

A portion of the profits from the often-touching tome, which is intended to help children between 6 and 12 cope with a cancer diagnosis of a parent, will be donated to the charities Hockey Fights Cancer and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

"I'm going to be all right," dad said.

I knew he was trying to sound brave and he didn't want me to worry, but I could tell he was scared.

"The chances for a cure are really good. Mario Lemieux had it and he came back and play for the Pittsburgh Penguins."

Finally, something I could understand. I'm a big hockey fan, and I knew that Mario was one of the best ever.

- From "The Year My Dad Went Bald"

"I never felt that I wasn't going to get better," Brian Kraft said last week.

Nevertheless, he and Nicole knew that his diagnosis and treatment were going to have a big impact on Danny. Brian Kraft was a stay-at-home dad at the time.

"We're pretty charmed people, and life had been as good as it could get," Nicole Kraft said.

"Team Kraft," as Nicole puts it, decided to tackle Brian's illness together, with everyone knowing everything, nothing held back.

"It was complete honesty, no sugarcoating," Brian Kraft said.

"We just laid it out for him," his wife added.

The big thing they sought to get across to Danny, Nicole Kraft said, was: "You're life's not going to be as much fun. You're not going to be the center of the universe. Dad is."

The initial chemotherapy treatment is often the roughest on cancer patients, which was exacerbated in Brian's case due to an allergic reaction to one of the drugs.

"The first one is absolute the worst thing that can happen to you," Brian Kraft said.

The medicine was really strong and it made dad feel worse than the cancer. When he came home he didn't look so good, and all he could do was lay on the couch. Dad started to throw up and couldn't stop hiccupping. I hate the hiccups. He threw up a bunch of times.

Mom was getting worried and she decided to take him to the emergency room.

- From "The Year My Dad Went Bald"

In spite of the setback from the allergic reaction, Brian Kraft managed to get out of the hospital just in time to attend Danny's soccer game the following day.

As the game started I was having a hard time getting into it. Then I saw dad and mom walking across the field. Dad looked sick and weak, but he had come straight from the hospital to watch my game.

I was so glad to see him. I tried to play my best.

- From "The Year My Dad Went Bald"

"Our relationships have changed forever, and we're a better family by far than we were," Nicole Kraft said.

A worrier by nature, Nicole Kraft used to worry about the small things. Now, she knows firsthand there are much bigger things to worry about.

"Life is just too short," she said.

"You take it day by day," Brian Kraft said. "It always in the back of your mind: 'I could get sick again, I could get sick again.' You live life to the fullest."

Brian Kraft has been cancer-free since January 2009. He wrote and illustrated the book, using a journal his wife kept of his illness.

"I could not be more thrilled with it," Nicole Kraft said.

Some copies of "The Year My Dad Went Bald" have been given to the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. Nicole Kraft said that she just recently learned of the book being given to one family after the father was diagnosed with cancer.

"I'm so proud of him," she said of her husband.

He was never really sick before his cancer, and he didn't like hanging around the house. We didn't wrestle or play around like we used to, and he seemed pretty sad.

But then things started to turn around. The Phillies made the World Series and they won the whole thing. I even got to stay up late to watch the final game.

I hadn't seen him so happy in a long time. Mom and dad even let me taste champagne. Yuck!

- From "The Year My Dad Went Bald"

kparks@thisweeknews.com

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