A mother’s tribute to her son

Jane Nattrass presents the Mayor of Morpeth Cllr Joan'Tebbutt with her new book after her son Henry.
Jane Nattrass presents the Mayor of Morpeth Cllr Joan'Tebbutt with her new book after her son Henry.

A GRIEVING mother has published a heart-rending account of the last year of her son’s life to raise funds for his charity.

Mum Jane Nattrass compiled 348 Days from her diaries and emails in tribute to 12-year-old Henry Dancer, who died from osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer.

The emotional story recounts the last year of Henry’s life, from when complaints of a sore leg, which were at first put down to growing pains, were diagnosed as one of the most common types of bone cancer, and through his time in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital.

The tale is one of tragedy, but it is also has moments of joy, laughter and friendship, with accounts of some of the wonderful people Henry and his family met, including doctors, nurses and other patients.

It shows the special bond between mother and son and highlights how Henry gave so much to everyone who knew him.

Ms Nattrass, a former Deputy Head Girl at Morpeth’s King Edward VI School, hopes the book will help other families going through the emotional journey of caring for a young person with a terminal illness.

She said it was difficult to write, but it was also a cathartic experience that began six months after Henry’s death and took 18 months to complete.

“There was a point where I had to stop for a couple of months because I just did not know how to put down what I was thinking and feeling,” she said.

The front cover of the book features a rainbow, which has a special significance.

Ms Nattrass, who now lives near Lanchester, said: “As a small boy Henry told me he could see ‘invisible rainbows’. I don’t know whether this came from a story or song. I don’t want to know. I’m simply aware that as a three or four-year-old it mattered to him.

“Having said that we would always stay in touch, once he’d left us that morning I looked out of the window and there was the most fantastic rainbow across the valley — a doubler. I like to believe that H was doing as I’d asked and playing his part in keeping in touch. He certainly was as beautiful as any rainbow to me.”

Every penny from sales of the book will go to Henry Dancer Days, which was set up to relieve the hardship of families experiencing osteosarcoma.

The fund, which has former Newcastle United footballer Alan Shearer as Patron, has already raised more than £70,000 and helped 26 families, enabling them to enjoy days out through assistance with specialist transport needs or providing iPads so that youngsters can keep in touch with their siblings and friends while in hospital.

It has been adopted by Morpeth Mayor Joan Tebbutt as her charity of the year and pin badges are being sold to help raise funds.

The book 348 Days costs £9.99 and can be ordered by emailing henrydancerdays@aol.com or by calling 01670 515870.