I've spent the weekend at the fabulous Forest Of Arden Hotel where the Myositis Support Group (MSG) were holding their annual conference.
Part of event was the launch of a children's book they'd asked me to write and illustrate to help children and their families diagnosed with Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM) understand the disease and the process of treatment they would be embarking on. I created a character called Teddy-Bo who, after displaying the early symptoms, is taken to his local GP and then referred on to a specialist for a diagnosis. The aim is for the reader to learn about JDM as Teddy-Bo and his parents learn and the treatment begins.
The story is told in rhyme, like my New Forest Friend's books, and each page of story is accompanied by a full page illustration. It was a steep learning curve for me as I previously knew very little about the condition, but the MSG, and especially Nikki Coleman and her daughter Katherine who has JDM, guided me in the right direction. We also visited Great Ormond Street to talk to the JDM team there to ensure we were being factually correct and that we could support the work they were doing.
Although the book is available for sale, it is not intended for anyone unless they have, or know of someone who has, the condition. I was able to spend much of Sunday with a group of children that do have it, and they were so remarkably resilient and positive. (I was keeping them occupied with drawings and games while the adults listened to the speakers) A soft toy of Teddy-Bo has also been produced and it was great seeing him hugged and loved from the off. The charity aims to give every new child diagnosed with JDM a free book and bear.
It's been a very rewarding project to be involved with and I hope it will bring some reassurance to the children and their families.