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Little Eva's legacy: picture book that explains cancer to children

Eva Tomney, who passed away in 2015 at the age of seven, three years after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour
Eva Tomney, who passed away in 2015 at the age of seven, three years after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour
Eva with her aunt Tracy Hughes

By Mairead Holland

A storybook to help children and their families cope with cancer has been launched in memory of a young Co Armagh girl.

Little Eva Tomney from Keady passed away in November 2015, aged seven, three years after she was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour.

In the girl's honour, Eva Meets Dr Mac was written by her aunt Tracy Hughes after she had searched in vain to find an age-appropriate, 'fun' book to tackle the very sensitive issue of childhood cancer.

Written in verse, the 32-page, brightly illustrated volume deals with hair loss - one of the side effects of Eva's chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Tracy said: "When Eva's hair started to fall out, she wanted to know if I could put it back in and I explained to her that some children have hair that goes on an adventure.

"So, Eva's hair became known as 'Hair' and I made up stories about Hair's adventures as we went along, and those stories became very tall tales which created adventures, magic and love in the midst of heartache."

Among those attending the book launch in Armagh was oncologist Dr Mark Taylor from the Mater Hospital. He described the publication of the book as the type of "co-production" the NHS needs from people whose lived experiences are "real and tangible and meaningful".

Dr Taylor told guests at the Market Place Theatre that the book would be an invaluable resource for families and would also help children whose parents are undergoing treatment.

Author and Unicef ambassador Cathy Kelly and Mary Claire Rennick, director of the Childhood Cancer Foundation and mother of a daughter who underwent successful cancer treatment, also spoke at the launch.

And 14-year-old Newry girl Lauren Fitzgerald, who is fighting neuroblastoma, endorsed it as a wonderful resource for young people going through treatment.

Tracy, a teacher at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon, explained: "Writing the book has provided immense healing for us as a family.

"I feel the journey is ongoing. Eva's legacy is to be one of helping others - and children, potentially worldwide, will benefit from the book."

Tracy has plans for two follow-up books and has also established a charity, Caring Adventures, to support children living with life-limiting conditions. It is holding its first fundraising run this September.

Proceeds from Eva Meets Dr Mac, which is available at www.evasadventures.com, will go to charities iCare Wishes and Make-a-Wish Foundation, both of which supported Eva.

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