A twelve-year-old coped with going BALD during lockdown by illustrating more than 100 drawings for a fantasy book based on his life.
James Mason-Carney started to notice his hair disappearing prematurely last Christmas but tried to hide it from friends at school.
The brave youngster then lost huge chunks of it to alopecia during the first national lockdown.
But to come to terms with his drastic change in appearance, James focused on finishing illustrating a book with over 140 quirky drawings he started when he was nine years old.
The story of Tiggs and the Midnight Choir was written by his mum and was inspired by James’ own journey of winning an audition and struggling for acceptance as a chorister at Exeter Cathedral.
It is now being sold through Amazon and James said it helped him cope with what he was going through at the time.
James says: “It’s not just the ghosts and secret passages that I like about the book.
“It’s also about friendship and getting over fears. When I lost my hair, it was scary going back to school and singing at the cathedral again, knowing that I’d be the only bald chorister. It’s also cold with no hair.
“But my school and choir friends were fantastic and really cheered me on. It’s like that in the book – James in the book feels different but he has great friends who help him through, like they did for me in real life.”
Although the idea for the book had already been established, when the original lockdown came into force in March there were still around 100 drawings to complete.
The time spent away from school and living at home to finish it off coincided with the final strands of James’ hair falling out.
Mum Julie-Claire Carney, of Sidmouth, Devon, said: “When his hair was falling out it was very frightening for him.
“We don’t know what caused it although it is sometimes linked to stress. He started losing his hair due to alopecia last Christmas. It was very frightening for him and by the start of lockdown he had eight bald patches.
“He was trying to hide it while singing at the cathedral.
“Lockdown was welcome in a way as he knew his hair was falling out in large chunks. Within a month of lockdown it had all gone. He was told his hair was unlikely to ever come back so the mentality was this was going to be forever.
“He coped with that by reframing it – we spoke about cool bald movie stars like Dwayne Johnson having to make an effort to look like that where he had that charismatic look for free. It was a whole re-framing of what baldness meant.
“His resilience is inspirational and I think he must be the only bald chorister in the country.”
The middle grade children’s book using real life as a backdrop, but the mother and son duo decided to add a blend of imagination and history to create what they described as a contemporary ghost story.
The main character, also called James, is poor, but his singing voice earns him a place as a Cathedral Chorister.
While exploring a secret passage leading to the cathedral, he stumbles upon a ghostly Midnight Choir and unearths a sinister plot to threaten their concerts.
But James befriends the Guardian of the Cathedral, a mischievous Griffin called Tiggs and together they try to resolve the mystery that could damage not only the Midnight Choir but the cathedral itself.
Julie added: “We sat together day after day and I supervised him as he did the drawings.
“It did him the world of good and was a complete distraction. He did a total of 140 drawings for it and was doing several each day.
“It was great for his self esteem and after he had done a batch of drawings he felt so much better. I never told him how many he needed to do and took it in small numbers.
“By illustrating the book, he didn’t just battle against adversity, our boy laughed in the face of it. We’re so proud of him.
“By lockdown we still had around 100 to do. His ability to draw has come about because of the book.
“It is exhilarating and we are both thrilled with the outcome. We had our ups and downs but are both delighted with the finished product.
“We wanted it to be based on a lot of truth and some imagination and that’s we feel it is.”
To buy the book on Amazon visit https://amzn.to/3pd0d2Y or for more details visit www.TiggsTheGuardian.com.