A nine-year-old girl with a brain tumour has written a book about positivity, kindness and hope, and it features a foreword by broadcaster Fearne Cotton.
Betsy Griffin was diagnosed with a low-grade optic nerve glioma at the age of two after developing nystagmus, a health condition that causes involuntary eye movements. The little girl, who is now blind, had to undergo 18 months of chemotherapy before having a biopsy and going on targeted treatment, which she remains on today.
Betsy, of Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, also requires lifelong hormone replacements. She underwent debulking surgery, to reduce as much of the bulk of her tumour as possible, last year. She has since had a stable scan, to check if a tumour is growing over time, and will need to have another one in January 2023.
Determined to stay happy, however, during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 she persuaded her parents, Rochelle and Stuart, to help her set up her own YouTube channel as she said she wanted “to spread positivity”.
A video and writing superstar
Betsy’s inspirational videos, which have featured songs, exercises and meditations, proved to be a hit with viewers. She became a YouTube star, with subscribers to her channel, called Betsy’s Positive Videos, reaching more than 4,700. After conquering the world of video, Betsy then turned her attention to a more traditional form of communication - writing.
She decided to create a book and even managed to get Sheryl Shurville, the owner of her local bookstore, Chorleywood Bookshop, onboard. Sheryl contacted Bev James Management and Literary Agency, which then collaborated with Betsy to turn her book into a modern-day collection of fables.The finished book, Out of the Woods, was released through HarperCollins Publishers in November.
Rochelle, a secondary school teacher, said: “Betsy’s not one for sitting and doing nothing. She’s always busking outside or writing a story or creating a show. When she decided she wanted to start creating YouTube videos to spread positivity, we thought it would be a good project to keep her busy.
“When she said she wanted to create a book to put on the shelves in our local bookshop, I explained it didn’t work like that as you had to get a book published. Betsy strolled into the bookshop full of charisma and the owner knew her from her YouTube videos and said ‘yes’. She got Bev James involved, who was very engaged and said we could make it work, then HarperCollins said ‘yes’ and it all just snowballed from there.”
A story of support and friendship
Betsy’s Out of the Woods is the story of a little girl who gets lost and befriends a dog.
Together they find their way and are reunited with her family, but not before encountering a host of animals, all who have positive lessons to share. The book, which has been described as “a feel-good collection of fables to teach and guide you through life, support your mental health, and inspire you”, is available to buy now via Waterstones and WHSmith, as well as on Amazon.
It contains a foreword by broadcaster Fearne Cotton, who went to the same school as Rochelle and is one of her cousin’s best friends. It is available in print, braille and audio, and Fearne has also recorded the audio version. Fearne isn’t the only famous face Betsy has spoken to. She even compared books with fitness coach Joe Wicks MBE when she met him backstage on the set of a national TV program when she was promoting her book.
Rochelle added: “It was really important to make the book accessible. There was no point making a book Betsy couldn’t access, or other children like her. It’s like Betsy’s disability has become her superpower. She’s got something about her; she can’t explain it and we can’t either, but it’s there. We’re really proud of her and when we get personal messages saying the book’s helped someone, that means so much.”
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, a charity Betsy and her family have long supported, also praised Betsy for her book.
“Betsy’s a special girl with an infectiously positive personality. There seems to be no limit to what she can achieve, and we remain completely in awe of her. She’s also a great advocate for our charity, helping to raise awareness of the fact one in three people know someone affected by a brain tumour, yet, historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease. This has got to change. We thank Betsy for her continued support and wish her lots of success with her incredible new book.”
To find out more about the charity, visit the official Brian Tumour Research website.