For the last couple of weeks I’ve been waiting for feedback from my alpha readers on my first book. As well as writing the odd blog post, I’ve been using my precious writing time to plan out my next book. I’ve been working it through for a week or so and got to a stage where I needed a turning point which would have enough emotional impact to tip my main character to do something they would normally never consider.
So, like most writers, I started to think about what would cause me pain and I immediately my children come to mind and how I would feel if they had an incurable illness. It is important for the plot that this illness cannot be treated on the NHS in the UK, even better that there is a treatment available abroad but that it would cost a lot of money. I type the words “Children cancer no treatment NHS” into Google and find that there is a type of childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma. It is a rare cancer that affects between 75 -100 children in the UK per year. There is a treatment available on the NHS but it has a low success rate. Another type of treatment has been developed and is being trialled in some countries including the UK, but access to it is limited because its efficacy hasn’t been fully proven. It is just what I’m looking for.
I do a bit more research and come across the Neuroblastoma Alliance website, which has been set up by the NCCA to provide information and raise funds for the families affected by this terrible illness. On their website is a section called the Wall of Memory. It’s at this point that my research grinds to a halt.
The Wall of Memory tells the story of children who have died of Neuroblastoma. As the page comes up my eyes are drawn to a small photograph of a boy running in the garden. He must be around 18 months old and is wearing a floppy sun hat. It is exactly the same type of hat that my two year old wears. I look at the photo and think of my children and I can’t stop crying. I read the story and find out that the boy died just as his treatment started. The thought that this beautiful boy is no longer with us is too much. I start to cry yet at the same time I’m angry with myself for feeling this way when I have no real reason to cry. My children are happy and healthy and will hopefully stay that way. What right do I have to cry compared to the grief felt by these brave, brave parents who by exposing that grief can hopefully raise awareness and funds to give other kids a chance. It suddenly hits me how selfish and callous I’ve been. This isn’t just an interesting subject for my book. These are real people dealing with circumstances that I can barely comprehend. I look at the picture of that little boy and wonder at the person I have become.
I eventually calm down and decide what to do. My book will have a child diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, but I will use the plot point to raise awareness of this terrible disease. I will promote the Neuroblastoma Alliance charity within the dedication of the book, plus if I manage to publish the book and make any money, I will make sure some of the profits go to help these poor children and their families. I have also donated some money today, in memory of the little boy in the hat. If you are moved by what you have read, maybe you would like click on the link here and donate some money too. Perhaps we can help prevent more children from appearing on the Wall of Memory.