Meet The Family – Hannah Pearl

 Something a little bit different this time round as Hannah talks to us about living with ME and how much she related to her character’s in her new book “Meet Me On the Buddy Bench” Which I myself can’t wait to read…

Hi, my name is Hannah Pearl and I’d like to thank Claire for inviting me on to her blog to talk about my new book, Meet Me on the Buddy Bench.  This book is a romance at heart, but it includes issues of grief han 4 (1) (1)and chronic illness. It is the story of Sam and Ava. Having both experienced huge changes in their lives, they question whether they can build a new life together and just what this might look like when it is not what they would ever have expected.

This book felt very personal to me because, like Ava, I also suffer from ME. I experience huge amounts of fatigue, balance problems, and brain fog. One of the hardest aspects to manage though is the post-exertional malaise. This is the key identifying symptom of ME. It means that if I overdo it, then all of my symptoms get worse, I feel awful, and it can take quite a bit of time for it to lift again.

It was really important to me to write this book for a few reasons. I wanted to take the opportunity to raise awareness of ME. We don’t yet have a blood test for ME, it is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms that don’t seem to have another cause, and so it can take quite a while to get a diagnosis, and then it can because it is poorly understood by doctors, it can be very hard to receive up to date information or advice. There are at least 250000 people in the UK who have ME, many of whom are even more severely affected than me. A quarter of people with ME are housebound or bedbound. Because of my health it can be very difficult to do the things you might do normally if a cause is important to you, like meet others or attend events. The online ME community though has been a source of enormous support and information.

I also wanted to write about ME within a romance book because when I first got ill (with symptoms much like Ava’s), reading gave me such an important way to escape from how awful I was feeling, if only for as long as the book lasted, and so I would finish one book and immediately start in the next. Romance books don’t shy away from covering difficult and emotive topics, and reading about people who had to start over but found new ways to live and to love helped me to stay positive at a time when my life changed so dramatically.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by supportive family and friends. I do hope that awareness of ME improves and that one day there will be better treatments available. There is so much of my old life that I miss and so many things I wish I could do again, especially with my children. Until then, I remain massively limited, but, like Ava, I try to find joy in the small things. It isn’t the life I expected to have but it is filled with love and I am very grateful for that.

I loved writing this book and hope that people enjoy finding out more about Sam and Ava as they try to rebuild their lives together.

You can find out more about ME The ME Association

More About Hannah Pearl

Hannah Pearl was born in East London. She is married with two children and now lives in Cambridge.

She has previously worked as a Criminology researcher, as a Development Worker with various charities and even pulled a few pints in her time.

In 2015 she was struck down by Labrynthitis, which left her feeling dizzy and virtually housebound. She has since been diagnosed with ME. Reading has allowed Hannah to escape from the reality of feeling ill. She read upwards of three hundred books during the first year of her illness. When her burgeoning eReader addiction grew to be too expensive, she decided to have a go at writing. In 2017 she won Simon and Schuster’s Books and the City #heatseeker short story competition, in partnership with Heat magazine, for her short story The Last Good Day.

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When an ordinary park bench becomes a lifeline …

As a primary school teacher, Ava Lam is familiar with the ‘buddy bench’: a rainbow painted bench where sad or lonely children can sit to show they need a friend.

But are buddy benches just for kids? Ava might have assumed so – until she finds herself sobbing her heart out on a park bench and a kind stranger sits down next to her.

The stranger, Dr Sam Stone, has a house, an impressive job and he’s even training for a marathon – all things that have become painfully out of reach for Ava in her new and scary circumstances. But whilst Sam appears to have everything figured out, it seems he needs a sympathetic ear just as much as she does.

Is the encounter a one-off, or could the ‘buddy bench’ begin to represent a source of comfort and support that will become precious to them both?

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