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Mummy’s Lump

Following the support of Gillian Forrest’s research and providing a donation to Breast Cancer Care, The Ashley Charitable Trust was delighted to have been involved with Breast Cancer Care’s book ‘Mummy’s Lump’ - published in May 2008.

Mummy’s Lump is aimed at children aged ten and under, whose mothers have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is the first book aimed at children of this age in the UK and was awarded the prize for Best Charitable Initiative at the Pfizer Excellence in Oncology Awards in October 2008.

In addition to the donation, Breast Cancer Care were enormously grateful to The Ashley Charitable Trust for the financial support to Gillian Forrest, which made a very valuable contribution and undoubtedly been a factor in the book’s success.

Introduction

Of the 46,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, it is estimated that 30% will have children of school age. Mummy’s Lump is designed to give patients the tools and support to talk openly and confidently with their children about what a diagnoses of breast cancer means, and dealing with the effects as a family.

Synopsis

Mummy’s Lump follows the story of brother and sister Jack and Elly, and how they cope with their mother’s diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The book covers topics including what breast cancer is, what happens at the hospital, what side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be, and what will happen after treatment has finished. The book has been designed in the style of other children’s books, so it fits comfortably on a child’s bookshelf, with clear and easy to understand language and images illustrated by Sarah Garson.

Background and development

Mummy’s Lump is written by Gillian Forrest, Senior Research Fellow in the Section for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Park Hospital for Children.

Gillian was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990 when her children were five and seven.

She published a research paper in 2006 in the British Medical Journal, titled Breast Cancer in the family – children’s perception of their mother’s cancer and its initial treatment: qualitative study — and findings from this research influenced the content of the book. Key findings from Gillian’s research included:

  • Many mothers put off telling their children that they have breast cancer because they are afraid of upsetting them and are worried about being asked difficult questions such as ‘are you going to die?’
  • Parents were often unaware of their child’s knowledge of cancer as a life-threatening illness. Children often suspected that something may be seriously wrong before they were told; some even suspected that their mothers were hiding the seriousness of the situation and worried that they were being excluded
  • Parents sometimes misunderstood their child’s reaction and under-estimated the emotional impact or did not recognise the child’s need for more preparation and age appropriate information about the illness and treatment
  • The more children were prepared and informed, as appropriate for their age and development, the more it seemed to help them cope.
 

Achievements and outcome

The response to Mummy’s Lump has been tremendous, with a huge amount of interest from patients, health professionals and the media. Tens of thousands of copies have been sent out, in addition numerous downloads from Breast Cancer Care’s website. The book will be available through the Jane Ashley Women’s Centre.

In addition to winning the prize for Best Charitable Initiative at the Pfizer Excellence in Oncology Awards in October 2008, Mummy’s Lump continues to receive national media coverage and acclamation. This includes coverage in the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, BBC-online, several women’s magazines and the Lancet Oncology. There was widespread regional coverage across the UK, using the experiences of Breast Cancer Care media volunteers who had breast cancer while their children were young.

Gillian Forrest also appeared on ITV’s This Morning and there were also a number of regional radio features on the book, including BBC Radio.