A woman’s terminal cancer journey has inspired her to write a children’s book.
Alexia Stevens, 34, recently released her book titled The Octopus Visits Doctor Puss is a humorous story that stars a nervous Octopus named Alex who goes to see Doctor Puss after he suffers a missing tentacle.
Doctor Puss takes Alex on an adventure around the world in search of his tentacle.
The sights visited by these two characters – Egypt, Greece, Australia – were drawn from Alexia’s own experiences.
Born in England, Alexia’s parents travelled around with their kids.
“Mum and Dad always wanted to travel,” Alexia says. “We ended up in Australia and in Brunei.”
This installed a love of travel within her. Alexia, who lives in Cockle Bay, studied interior design in London.
She would go on to do retail management, which was interwoven with interior design as she would sell furniture and remodel houses and have a part-time modelling gig with K&K Fashion.
She has been in New Zealand for 10 years and lives with her husband Warren and beloved cat Isaac, who Doctor Puss is based on.
When she was 28, Alexia was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had all the treatments offered.
It was during this time that she thought about writing a children’s book because all her friends were having kids, and her doctors told her she’d have to wait five years to have her own.
“I thought about it,” she says, “but I put it on the backburner.”
Two years later, the cancer came back in her bones and brain. Her diagnosis is terminal stage four breast cancer.
“I stopped work and felt like I needed to have a job,” Alexia says. “I started writing.”
The words portion came easily, she says. The illustrating of her hand-painted watercolour book took her a year.
“It was a lot of work,” she says. “My cancer journey inspired the book.”
Her later-life journeys to Egypt and Greece, her early memories of Australia and Brunei, were the locations that her characters would travel to when finding Alex’s tentacle.
Alex’s experience of his missing tentacle throughout the story is a journey of self-acceptance. “He learns that he’s perfect the way he is,” Alexia says.
This was something she herself experienced.
“I had a mastectomy when I was younger,” she says. “It was a struggle, learning to accept myself the way I am.”
Alexia told the Times that she is proud of the story and the message.
“If you’ve got something that might be a little different, accept it yourself and everyone should accept each other,” she says.
The Octopus visits Doctor Puss is a funny and interactive adventure.
“The kids have all laughed,” she says. “There are things for them to look for in the pages.”
“It’s also good for kids who are afraid to go to the doctor. Alex visits the doctor and he helps him throughout the story.”
The doctors told Alexia her life expectancy is verging on months. “They said that to me like a month ago,” she says. “I’m still going strong.”
She’s currently undergoing chemotherapy. For the future, she hopes, once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions ease, to showcase the book’s artwork in a gallery as it’s all hand-painted and hand-drawn.
- “The Octopus Visits Doctor Puss” can be found on Amazon.