Rhona's dream comes true
By Sheena GrantMOTHER-of-two Rhona Damant has realised a dream she never thought she would live long enough to see come true - the printing of a book based on her diaries about living with cancer.
By Sheena Grant
MOTHER-of-two Rhona Damant has realised a dream she never thought she would live long enough to see come true - the printing of a book based on her diaries about living with cancer.
Rhona's Diary began in the East Anglian Daily Times' weekly health pages in October 2003 and soon attracted a loyal army of readers.
She had been diagnosed with secondary, inoperable cancer of the lungs, liver, brain and spine only months before, having previously been given the all-clear after a mastectomy and treatment for breast cancer.
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Letters, cards and gifts poured in from readers who were touched by Rhona's honest, funny and moving diaries detailing her family life, hopes, fears, pain, setbacks and triumphs.
Her words struck a chord with the personal experiences of some, but for others they just reached out on a human level to raise awareness about a subject that affects so many, but is so difficult to confront.
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Diaries that appeared in the EADT over an 18-month period have now been collected together in a book, along with a photographic record of Rhona's life, which includes many pictures from her family album, a help and advice section and a personal account of her childhood and adult life, putting her illness into context.
The foreword is written by singer Ronan Keating, whose mother died of breast cancer.
The book, called Sit Down and Stop Laughing, is published by the EADT and is raising money for Rhona's favourite charity, Breakthrough breast cancer.
Rhona, 44, who lives near Sudbury with her husband, David, son Kristopher, 14, and daughter Francesca, 13, was in Ipswich yesterday with her children to see the book rolling off the presses at Healeys Printers.
She admitted to feeling a little overwhelmed by the experience and, unusually for her - as she would be the first to say - almost lost for words.
“It is an unbelievable thing. The whole situation with what has happened in the last couple of years is very surreal anyway - getting the diary published, being invited to a reception with the Queen at Buckingham Palace and meeting Ronan Keating,” said Rhona.
“It is hard to put my feelings into words - how did it all happen, where does it all come from?
“I certainly did not think I would be here to see the book published. I never thought I would have a book published anyway and then when the opportunity came along I did not think I would be around to see it happen. I can't find the words to explain how I feel.”
The book should raise thousands of pounds, boosting the total Rhona has already helped bring in for cancer charities through various fundraising initiatives.
“The money will go to Breakthrough and it should be a sizeable amount to aid research,” she said.
“Surely that has got to help somewhere along the line and that is what drives me. There will be another fundraising goal after this one too. I don't know what it will be yet, but there will be one.”
Philip Dodd, Healeys' managing director, said it was delighted to be involved in the project and felt privileged to have met Rhona.
“I am amazed by her optimism and vitality - it really stops you in your tracks. It would be easy for someone in her position to be bitter and angry, but she comes across as a positive lady with a great love of life,” he added.
“This is the first fundraising book of this nature we have printed and, having met Rhona, I can say what a pleasure it is to help in the project.”
EADT deputy editor Dominic Castle said: “It is great to finally see the book on the presses after a lot of hard work by some very dedicated people.
“I know Rhona's many readers are looking forward to having the chance to read her diary entries again.
“Putting them in the book so that they can be read together seems to add something new and different. It actually makes them even more special, if that's possible.”
Rhona has also bravely dipped into her photo albums, so the book contains some never-seen-before pictures taken through her life from her babyhood up to date.
Sit Down and Stop Laughing will be out before the end of April. If you would like to pre-order a copy, please fill in the form printed below.