A tear rolled down Veronica Marion-Rawlins's cheek when she discovered there weren't ample resources that could help her explain her breast cancer diagnosis to her then four-year-old son. The single mom and her son, James "Trey" Rawlins III, searched everywhere – from local booksellers to online retailers – for reading materials that could help them better understand the journey they were about to embark on together. When they ended up with nothing,Trey decided to write a book himself.
Five years later, Trey, now age nine and a fourth-grader at Edgewood Magnet School in New Haven, Conn., is a published author, with help from a $1,000 donation from Howard University Hospital, in Washington, D.C., and his mom's credit cards. "When Mommy Came Home" is targeted toward children ages four to seven. By word-of-mouth the book, available for $10 through his mother, 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.
In his book Trey writes how his mom "would see Nurse Karen for her treatments … she'd sit in a big comfy chair … eat treats and snacks and sometimes do her nails." Although he wasn't able to accompany his mom around the hospital, "I waited until she came home" and the two would nap on the couch. Trey recounts helping his mom 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.
Having only ordered 100 initial copies, Marion-Rawlins said she did not expect the book to garner all the attention it has. Hospitals and clinics as far as Augusta, Ga., are now requesting copies. Although she admitted to "maxing out my credit card" to finance the book, Marion-Rawlins hopes that the book will get picked up by more publishing outlets.
"We're not looking to make a profit," Marion-Rawlins, currently an education consultant for the State Education Resource Center in Connecticut, 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."
Marion-Rawlins, whose son was in school when ABC News spoke with her, said both she and her son have had an amazing journey. Neither expected the outcome "to be so big."
Although she is now happy to report, "I'm doing great," Marion-Rawlins was diagnosed back in 2007. The former first-grade teacher said the first thing she asked the hospital social workers for was a children's book.
"She came back with really technical medical pamphlets and I thought to myself, 'No, this isn't going to do it,'" Marion-Rawlins said. "I figured that if I could just show him in a book with pictures what Mommy was going to go through and that we're going to be O.K., then it would be O.K."