Granny Dawn shares stories

February 27 2015

DAWN May was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2012 – the same year she became a grandmother for the first time.

DAWN May was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2012 – the same year she became a grandmother for the first time.

Although little Luca is still too young to understand, Dawn is determined that her grandson will not be frightened by her symptoms.

She has always been open with him and her family about the illness and its impact but she has discovered that some people find it difficult to share awareness with their nearest and dearest.

Yet keeping quiet means that sometimes children may not realise what's happening until their grandparent becomes quite scary.

“I didn't want that to happen to me and I wanted to help others who might be in the same situation so I decided to write some children's books about Parkinson's,” said Dawn, 62, who volunteers at a school in Horfield and lives in Clifton with her husband David, a professor of computer science.

The result is a series of five gentle stories, beautifully illustrated by Phil Goss, which are being sold to raise money for the charity Parkinson's UK.

Dawn self-funded the first, Does it hurt, Granny? published in 2013 and crowdfunded the second, I'll do it, Granny, which came out late last year. The others are written and will be published in due course.

The books feature a little boy called Jake and show how he and his granny can still enjoy each other's company, even on bad days.

Dawn hopes people in Bishopston and Redland will buy the books for people they know with Parkinson's or will consider purchasing them to give to local schools, in time for the charity's Use Your Head awareness day for primary schools on April 24.

Dawn, a former French teacher and student adviser, has given to talks in schools about the illness, which affects about 127,000 people in the UK. There is currently no cure, but drugs and treatments are available to manage many of the symptoms.

“I was 59 when I was diagnosed. I was troubled by my own prognosis but I was not in any pain. Usually people do not deteriorate too much in the first ten years or so,” she said.

Dawn, who has three adult sons, is determined to continue enjoying her life in spite of the illness, which causes her some difficulty with walking and with fine motor skills such as doing up buttons.

She enjoys cycling and is an active member of the Bristol branch of Parkinson's UK.

“There is a long gap between diagnosis and when things become frightening,” said Dawn. “ Luca has not noticed anything yet, but when he does he will have heard the word Parkinson's.”

Dawn hopes local people will “buy and donate” books to schools through her website dawnmay.com (two books for £12) so that teachers can use them as a gentle introduction to the age-appropriate materials issued by Parkinson's UK.

For details of Use Your Head day, visit: www.parkinsons.org.uk/content/use-your-head-parkinsons

Dawn with grandson