In 2007, Veronica Marian-Rawlins and her then four-year-old son, James “Trey” Rawlins III, searched high and low for books that could help them understand the bleak transition their lives were facing when Marian-Rawlins was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t find a single book that would help them prepare for the changes they were soon to face — that’s when Trey decided he’d write his own book to help other kids and their mothers through the trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. Now age nine, Trey is a published author with the help of a $1,000 donation from Howard University Hospital and his mother’s financial contributions. “When Mommy Came Home” is targeted toward children ages four to seven. Initially the book was sold via word-of-mouth for $10 through his mother. It quickly became so popular among local schools, clinics and hospitals that it is now sold out. The mother-son team hopes that with donations, they will be able to order more books that can be distributed to the people and places that may need them most.
The book recounts the experience Trey had with his mother as she underwent treatment for her diagnosis. He says she’d “see Nurse Karen for her treatments … she’d sit in a big comfy chair … eat treats and snacks and sometimes do her nails.” He even provides subtle details about his experience saying, “I waited until she came home” and the two would nap on the couch. Trey also details how he helped his ill mother by doing “little jobs” like dusting or emptying out the trash. The book contains over 20 illustrations from Jean Marie Sanchez of Hamden, a children’s book writer and illustrator.
Despite the success the book has shown them, Marion-Rawlins said they’re not seeking financial gain from it. “We’re not looking to make a profit,” she said. “We want to donate them to hospitals, so when other moms are diagnosed, now they’ll have a tool that I didn’t have. So if they have a young child, they’ll know what to expect.”
One nurse believes the book is a must-have for families who are facing serious illnesses. “I think this will definitely have a positive impact on children,” said Karen Underwood, a registered nurse at Yale New Haven. “That population goes through a lot of stuff and many parents wonder what’s going to happen to their children.”
Marion-Rawlins is now in good health and is currently working with Trey again to write a second book about her niece to who wears a cochlear implant because of a hearing impairment. She says the purpose of the book is to “provide awareness regarding that community.”