By Katrina Lau Hammond

When I was 34, I’d already lived a wonderful life, and I still had so much to look forward to. I’d travelled the world, lived in five countries, trained as a pastry chef in Paris, worked as a food photographer and food technologist, and become a mum to two wonderful children with my husband Jeremy.

It was when I was breastfeeding my six-month-old, the youngest of my two, when I discovered a tiny lump in my breast. With no family history of breast cancer, and being in my 30s, I wasn’t overly concerned at the time. I assumed it was a blocked milk duct. Health professionals initially agreed and some were adamant it was mastitis.

However as two months went by, my entire breast continued to harden. No advice or treatment I received had given me any relief to my growing discomfort. It soon became obvious we were looking at something more serious.

The breast cancer diagnosis that followed, along with the doctors’ and specialists’ appointments, completely blindsided me. My mind raced frantically through this time.

It wasn’t the treatment, or the surgery or the hair loss that frightened me the most, it was thinking of my children’s futures. Thinking about what their lives would be like without me; if I wasn’t there to guide, nurture and support them.

I thought about whether I would ever realise my dream of meeting my own grandchildren.

Katrina and her husband, Jeremy decided to keep their children informed about her cancer diagnosis from the start.

There’s no doubt I found it difficult to tell my children about my cancer diagnosis. Nobody ever wants to have that conversation with their kids, to tell them that they have a life-threatening illness. But kids are intelligent, perceptive, inquisitive human beings. They’ll pick up on your little cues and the change in mood, even if you are trying not to tell them.

My husband and I wanted to keep our kids informed from the start, so I thought that there had to be other parents who felt the same way. I have bought and read many books for kids, all trying to help explain cancer. Yet I found that nothing quite fit the bill.

With my lived experience, I decided that I would write my own book. I didn’t want to gloss over the truth. I wanted to create something honest and informative. Something factual, not whimsical, suitable for preschoolers, that’s comforting and easy for their parents or carers to read, over and over again.

Through an overwhelming amount of support from preschool and school communities, as well as friends and family, who crowdsourced funding for the project, I was able to have the book professionally illustrated and published.

Katrina’s book, The Village is an honest and informative book that helps explain cancer to children.

It’s been almost five years since my first cancer diagnosis, and each day since then has been a tumultuous battle. I’ve experienced further devastating cancer diagnoses, multiple rounds of therapy and treatment and combatted aggressive breast cancer twice. I spent three of these years writing The Village, on-and-off, interrupted by ongoing treatment, tests and surgeries.

Currently, I’m undergoing my most enduring battle yet — one that’s been with me for two years — the further progression of my metastatic (stage four, advanced) breast cancer. To an outsider looking in, I may look well, but behind the smiles, I am battling against the disease through rigorous treatment and exhausting chronic side effects.

My journey with cancer hasn’t been a smooth ride, to say the least. It has taught me so many valuable life lessons, about what is important — nurturing relationships with loved ones, finding gratitude in the small things and forming beautiful memories. Not only that, it has fuelled creativity and injected passion and purpose into my days.

I wrote The Village from the perspective of a child. It’s informative, sensitive and age appropriate, and I think it will gently reassure the children who are reading it, or having it read to them. It’s the book that I wish I’d had when I was diagnosed, to read to my then three-year-old to help explain to him that his mummy has cancer.

It’s a really difficult topic, but I do think that it’s important for parents to be open with their children about a cancer diagnosis. I believe that if you try to hide things from them, they create their own little stories in their head, and that can often be far scarier than the reality.

I hope that this book can support young families to navigate the difficult times that come with a cancer diagnosis, be a conversation starter, and that it can help children to better understand what is going on in their family.

The Village was crowdfunded by preschool and school communities, friends and family. Net proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to cancer research via the Cure Cancer charity, to help other people like Katrina, and their families, who are on their own cancer journeys.

To support and purchase the book, visit The Village Kids Book.