Find out how, when freelance writer Natalie Trice’s son Lucas was diagnosed with a chronic condition, she turned the experience into a positive opportunity to help other parents.
What’s your career background?
I am a Buckinghamshire based author, blogger and freelance writer. I also know a thing or two about social media.
Over the past 20 years I’ve worked for some of the world’s biggest brands including Cartoon Network, CNN, Crowne Plaza, Discovery Channel, Epson and T.M.Lewin as well as some amazing entrepreneurs and start-ups.
In 2015 my first book, Cast Life – A Parent’s Guide to DDH, was published By Nell James and I have just signed a second deal with them.
As well as a regular column for Families Magazine, I write about DDH, parenting and lifestyle topics for various publications, websites and on my blog, Just Because I Love, which I’ve been writing for nearly four years.
When did you first realise there was a problem with your son, and how did you feel?
Lucas was diagnosed with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) when he was four months old following a scan I had to push for. There is a family history but it was still a massive blow and some days it still feels surreal to have a child with a chronic condition.
We went from baby massage classes and soft play with my toddler to endless appointments, scans and surgery schedules in 24 hours.
What is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip?
DDH is when the ball and socket hip joint fails to develop correctly. With a healthy hip socket, the head of the femur is smooth and round and the acetabulum is a smooth cup-like shape and the two sit together like an egg in an egg-cup. DDH occurs when the two don’t fit snugly together.
Where did you go for information and support following his diagnosis?
Lucas was diagnosed with DDH nearly seven years ago and I was staggered at the lack of information and support available. I hit Google and was overwhelmed by horror stories and images that made me feel even more alone and upset.
Over time we found our feet, I gathered as much information as I could so I knew what we were dealing with and what was ahead for Lucas but I felt pretty alone and out of my depth.
What inspired you to write Cast Life – A Parent’s Guide to DDH?
That is simple: my son and the lack of information and support when he was diagnosed.
I would hate for any other parent to feel as stranded as I did when I was told Lucas had DDH and I really hope that my book is easy to find and offer a little solace and a lot of reassurance.
I have always wanted to be an author so in a way Cast Life is the silver lining of a tough situation.
How does the book help other parents?
Cast Life covers everything you need to know about DDH. From symptoms and explanations of the condition to details of the treatments involved, it’s all in there.
It also looks at what life is like when your child is in a cast as well as the emotional side of DDH, an area that is often overlooked. It doesn’t bombard the reader with medical jargon, but equips them with the knowledge and facts they need to understand and get to grips with DDH.
The foreword was written by Professor Clarke, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the University of Southampton, which was a huge honour and I believe it has given the book more kudos.
With comments from other parents and case studies, plus expert advice, Cast Life is a must have book for anyone dealing with DDH.
How easy was it to write and then to get published?
A couple of years ago I signed up for a non-fiction writing course and the tutors, Glynis Kozma and Liat Hughes Joshi, really put me through my paces. By the end of the course I had written a full proposal, several chapters and started approaching agents and publishers.
One by one they came back saying great idea but not for us, but I didn’t give up and I am so glad I didn’t because it has been fantastic working with the team at Nell James.
I actually wrote the first draft in less than three months but had to do a lot of research beforehand, carried out a survey, spoke with parents and professionals as well as getting input from experts.
Whilst it was a pretty straightforward process it was emotionally loaded but equally cathartic to get our experiences down on paper.
How did you use the skills, experience and contacts you had built up in your career to write and promote your book?
As a blogger, PR and writer, my skills have been invaluable.
I think it is one thing, one BIG thing, to write a book but to get out there and noticed in what can be a pretty crowded market place, is something totally difference.
I have done a huge amount of PR for Cast Life on a local, regional, UK and global scale and am starting to see the coverage paying off as people buy the book and give me their feedback.
How is Lucas doing now?
Today Lucas is a happy, healthy six year-old with the spirit of a warrior and a love of football, LEGO and Minecraft.
He amazed us by walking back into school in January, just two months after his pelvis was broken and repositioned. He has endured more pain then any child deserves but he has strength, determination, a brother who adores him and a smile that melts my heart.
What is Spica Warrior?
Spica Warrior is a charity I have set up that is dedicated to raising awareness of DDH. We want to empower others by giving them the knowledge they need to move forwards. Spica Warrior offers easy to understand information about DDH so that parents know exactly what is happening to their child.
The website’s blog is updated with news about the latest developments about the condition and we love featuring the brave stories and photos of others on their DDH journey.
Via our fundraising we aim to support the paediatric ward at the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital, where Lucas is treated, as well as treat families who need a break when the pressure is on.
DDH is a journey nobody would ever choose to take but one many of us have to make but we hope Spica Warrior will make things just a little bit easier and offer the hope of healthy hips in the future.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who follow their dreams and make them a reality.
I am not talking about celeb’s who have an entourage to keep all the balls in the air, but real people who push the boundaries and make a difference.
DDH has taught me that you don’t know what might throw at you and whilst Lucas’ condition isn’t life threatening it has been life changing and you have to get up and deal with it.
And of course Lucas is a massive inspiration because even when he is in a hospital bed or wheelchair, he is smiling, determined and spirited.
What are your top tips for other mums thinking of writing a book?
- Write about what you know and are passionate about – it will shine out not only readers but also agents and publishers.
- Have a plan, but be flexible.
- Read, a lot!
- Sit down and actually write because a book won’t write itself!
- Believe in yourself and go for it.