Sussex mother with incurable breast cancer writes books to help children with sick parents

  • ITV News Meridian's Abigail Bracken has been to meet Anita Howell.

A mother from Sussex who has incurable cancer has been writing books to help children understand what's happening to their sick parents.

Anita Howell, who's from Burgess Hill, wrote the first books after her husband needed kidney treatment and then when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, wrote about that too.

Anita said: "We just tried to find books like you can easily get books about, you know, having a baby, moving house, things like that. Most things that children have to face and go through. There's usually a children's book to help parents sit and explain the situation to them. And there's nothing available."

Anita was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and despite extensive treatments, her cancer is now incurable.

  • Anita now hopes to find a publisher so she can help many others.

She hopes her latest book about breast cancer, along with her books about kidney treatments, will help children understand what is happening to a sick parent and she's already sold more than 1,000 copies online.

Anita said: "It's been read by, you know, one or two children from the age of about 20 months up to eighty years old. So all ages.

Sarah Hodkinson, from Shooting Star Children's Hospices, said: "Serious illness or grief or death of a loved one is one of the most intensely painful experiences a human being can suffer. And on the shoulders of a child who doesn't have the psychological maturity or the understanding to process that, it's extremely traumatic and the body can really shut down and stop ways of processing that and the feelings can become incredibly toxic. And so talking about serious illness, about death and dying is incredibly important."

In the UK, a parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes, according to the charity Child Bereavement Uk. That's almost 24,000 every year and means more than 100 children are losing a parent every day.