The Story Behind the Book

The loss of a child is every parent’s nightmare, and one that Trish Carpenter has lived through. In this raw and real tale, Trish shares her son Thomas’ courageous fight with medulloblastoma, an aggressive childhood brain cancer. From the shocking diagnosis, to surgery and treatment, then came a new trial put before this young boy... During surgery to remove his tumour, Thomas acquired a brain injury known as Posterior Fossa Syndrome. This presented an additional challenge for a family already on its knees. Thomas was suddenly unable to sit, speak, swallow or control any voluntary muscle in his body. He was back to square one as a seven-year-old boy and in for a long journey of rehabilitation. Trish found that she was in need of answers beyond doctor advice, looking for helpful information and wanting to hear from other parents’ experiences. She didn’t find what she was looking for and she became frustrated and confused about how she could best help her son.

While never giving up hope, this little boy demonstrated courage, resilience and perseverance throughout his gruelling 13-month battle with brain cancer. This is the story of a superhero. This is Thomas’ story. It is gut-wrenching. It will make you laugh and cry.

But… It will give you comfort. It will give you answers. It will give you an insight on what it takes to get through a family’s biggest test.

Trudi Plaschke

Writer, editor

Filled with practical advice, “Big Hand, Little Hand” is essential reading for parents, co-parents and supporters of any child and family who experiences brain cancer. Trish has beautifully captured her son Tom’s cheeky spirit and courage in the face of an unbearable fight. The help this book will give other parents and families is a tribute to Tom, and just one example of how his legacy lives on. Vale Tom the Superhero, and thank you Trish for selflessly sharing your experiences to help others.

Helen O'Rourke

Educator, parent

No parent should ever have to bury their own child. No child should have to bury their twin brother. Tom’s courageous fight against brain cancer is devastatingly recounted by his mother, Trish Carpenter in her memoir Big Hand, Little Hand. It is a story of one child’s strength and his mother’s unwavering love. It is also a way to cope with unimaginable grief and may provide some solace for those who are forced to face similar adversity in their lives. Unique in its subject matter and perspective, this book is a must-read for parents or loved ones of children who have been touched by cancer.

Jane Connolly

Former nurse, teacher, teacher librarian, bookseller, reviewer, literary awards judge and corporate communicator.

Big Hand Little Hand chronicles two courageous thirteen-month struggles. The first is Thomas’, a seven-year-old twin diagnosed with a brain tumour, who faces every attendant treatment to rid him of disease with a stoicism beyond his years. The second struggle is that of his mother, thrown into a world she has little knowledge of, wants no part of and has no arsenal for facing the impact of her son’s diagnosis.

Part memoir, part guide for others experiencing similar issues, and wholly an honest and confronting account, Big Hand Little Hand captures the heartbreak and pain of accompanying and mothering a young child on a horrendous journey. It is a journey not undertaken alone and yet against the background of medical intervention and hospital care the strength of the relationship between Tom and his mother is what resonates strongly throughout.

Theirs is a story told with great poignancy. A difficult and sometimes unsettling read, Big Hand Little Hand is nonetheless a gift – a tribute to a beautiful boy and a celebration of the love that surrounded and sustained him.

Alana English

Senior Social Worker with Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service

Big Hand, Little Hand is a beautiful and raw and honest sharing of a family’s incredible fight when Thomas, their beautiful, active, and creative boy is diagnosed with cancer and a brain injury. This book is Tom’s story, his cheeky personality, his beautiful and amazing adventures, and his heroic bravery. It is also his mum’s story, a story of endless love and commitment, of tears and laughter, of music and memories as she negotiates this new and foreign world. In being able to share both intimate details of her grief, as well as practical advice around the challenges of the everyday when your child is diagnosed with a serious illness and injury, Trish has created a much-needed resource for other parents who may be in a similar position. As professionals, we can offer guidance, counselling and advice for families faced with enormous struggles such as this, but to hear from the perspective of another parent is, I believe, immensely valuable in validating others’ experiences and supporting them to navigate their own difficult path. This book is both a powerful tribute to Tom, and an amazing gift to try and help others.