People are being so kind though. I've had dozens of messages, being told that reading the book has already made things easier in homes all over the place, hearing that my words have given other parents the confidence to stand up to professionals, or to trust their own instincts, or to chill a little and have more fun.... really lovely things to say. Clinical staff have contacted me to say they've learnt loads too, and that they are approaching their jobs differently as a result. Sometimes, the lovely people who have bought my book even send me a photo of it once it gets to their house. Here are some of them.
If the print is too small to see, here are some of the lovely things they said about the book:
"Painfully honest", "Deeply affecting", "The chapters covering each area are excellent", "a fantastic job" "fills an enormous gap in the market", "an invaluable resource", "offers tremendous insights".
I really couldn't have asked for any more.
So, that got me thinking. The nurse who wrote the review is obviously one of those who "gets it", but she is also the mother of a special needs son, so it's easy to see why she did. I wrote it for people like her, for parents, and for professionals, who care for disabled or seriously ill children, I didn't write it for journalists. I wrote it for parents, struggling to come to terms with how, in a moment, their whole family life has irrevocably changed because their child has been given a devastating diagnosis. I wrote it for the professionals who work with these families, so they will understand some of the relentless heartache these families bear. I wrote it for my younger self, when I was frightened, isolated, exhausted and bewildered, and didn't think I'd be up to the job of caring properly for my son, Toby, and later, his brother and sister, when they too, were diagnosed with various conditions and illnesses.
I wrote about how to cope with stares in the street, how to make sure none of your children are left out and there's enough love and support to wrap around the whole family, how to cope with the multidisciplinary meetings, and the never-ending mountains paperwork, and the constant battles to make sure your child gets the help and care they really need. I wrote about everything I knew, everything I'd learnt, everything I hoped might make somebody's life just that little bit easier. At the end of every chapter, I packed in Tips, Tricks and Strategies, all the crazy, off-the-wall solutions to problems our family invented as we muddled along. There are bits in the book that make difficult reading, because they are so raw and painful, but equally, there are other bits that will make people snort with laughter.
So, instead of trying to court the journalists and the national press, I need to find the people who really matter, the parents who are having a hard time right now, and ask everyone I know to help me find them.
I have a Facebook Page. If you are on Facebook, it would be great if you could like it. It may mean that someone in your Facebook circle who really needs to know they are not alone in all this might also find out about my book just at a time they need it the most. Here's the FB page link: http://on.fb.me/1juTska
I'm also writing to every hospital, but it all takes time. I'm writing to every charity I can think of, and every special school, but it will take months. If anybody has any ideas of who else I should be writing to, please let me know.
I've already had one major success. I sent Great Ormond Street Hospital a copy of my book, and I got a lovely letter back from Liz Morgan, their Chief Nurse, who called it "An excellent reference guide for any parent". Jim Blair, their Nurse Consultant for Learning Disabilities, is also championing it. So far, they have ordered 30 copies, one for every ward, so that every single parent with a child in GOSH can read it. I spent a whole lovely day there, and had a really warm welcome and met some really genuine people. I was there to run sessions with their staff and parents about bridging the "them and us" communication gap. The sessions, too, were simply great, everyone was just fabulous, and committed to working together to make things easier all round
I met their Head of Operations, who was every bit as behind the book as Liz and Jim are; he has agreed to stock copies of "The Special Parent's Handbook" in the hospital's own shop from Monday, with £3.50 from every book sale going toward Jim Blair's innovative work to improve the care given to children with Learning Disabilities and their parents. Even better than that, the book is now going to be where there are also parents and staff who really need to know about it. I've just got to do more of this, getting the book to the heart of where it belongs, up and down the country.
Three weeks ago I was nervous about the book being published. Suddenly, it was the eleventh hour, and it was too late to unwrite it, Amazon already held copies. What if nobody liked it? What if it's rubbish? What if I've been too open? It's still a bit surreal that total strangers are reading about our family life, warts and all, but now I have the world's most famous children's hospital cheering on the book on my behalf and I am humbled beyond belief.
This blog used to be about my breast cancer. Then it was about the stage play. You have been with me when we discovered the cancer had spread to my spine, and that I had lost the battle with the big "C" to some extent. Yes it's incurable, but that doesn't mean I can't carry on living. Who knows how long I'll be here, now that I'm Stage IV cancer it's probably not as long as I would have wanted, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that every day counts.
Over the past year or so, since we nearly lost Toby when he was seriously ill last summer, the blog has become much less about cancer and much more about my children, learning disability, writing a book and all sorts of other things. I think it's time to step back from this Coke Floats & Chemo blog, and concentrate all my efforts for the time being into making sure the book gets into the right hands.
I'll still be writing, though. I've now got a website with a blog on it too, and it would be lovely if you can join me there. The format is different, on the right hand side there is a list marked "Posts", that's really the blog. It's got some very thought-provoking articles on it already, and you can also see some adorable photos of the children when they were growing up. Here's the website link: www.yvonnenewbold.com
So, for now, it's see you soon, not goodbye, because I may well come back and write like crazy on this blog too. Meanwhile, it would be lovely if you come and say hello to me on the new blog. For the moment, though, I can't stretch myself too thin, and also for the moment, the cancer is in a very good place, filed at the back of my mind while I get on with living.
If you'd like to buy the book and you can't get to Great Ormond Street easily, it's available from Amazon, both paperback and on Kindle. Here's the link to the Amazon Page:
And just for good measure, one last photo, to quote Eric Morecambe, of the book wot I wrote.