Dorian Murray dreamed of being famous. And the 8-year-old saw his wish come true before losing his battle earlier this month with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer.
It appears that Dorian’s fame may last a while longer.
Days before the Rhode Island boy passed, he was given a digital copy of “Leaving a Mark,” a children’s book about cancer he and Boston-area author Nicole DeRosa Cannella raced to finish. It is a project Cannella and Dorian’s family hope will give comfort to other young cancer patients and fund efforts to fight the disease.
“I can’t minimize the providential aspect of this,” said Cannella, 41. “Within six weeks, we had a book that was written, edited, pitched, accepted, illustrated, edited again, and then done so that this little boy could hold it in his hands before he died.”
Oregon-based Lampion Press made finishing the book a priority and provided a digital copy to Dorian on Feb. 27. Physical copies aredue out next month.
The book, illustrated free of charge by “Veggietales” story artist Tim Hodge, offers rhyming words of wisdom and hope to children with cancer, along with their families. “Cancer may have left its mark through needles, bumps, and bruises; but I will leave my mark on Earth in whatever way God chooses,” one line reads.
Cannella, who previously published bullying-centric children’s book “The Ribbit Exhibit,” learned of Dorian’s story online after it began trending with the Facebook tag #DStrong. Moved by his story, she was inspired to update an unfinished manuscript about cancer, which she started after seeing multiple family members, including her sister, endure treatments for various forms of the disease.
After connecting with Dorian and his mother, Melissa Murray, she earned their trust and involvement. Hodge, whom Cannella had befriended while living and working in Nashville, was also sent a copy of the manuscript and quickly signed on.
“I had my reservations because I didn’t know this woman from Eve,” Murray recalled. “But she came and read the book, and it touched me.”
With Dorian and Melissa’s help, Cannella rewrote and edited parts of “Leaving a Mark” to better reflect their experience. When Dorian was asked what advice he’d give to other children with cancer, Murray said her son replied, “ ‘That’s a pretty serious question — I have to think about this.’ ” That maturity, she said, was both beyond his eight years and very much in his character.
Murray said she hopes the book can have a “powerful impact” on other patients. “I’m excited to give something to other families that are going through this diagnosis, this journey, and hopefully ease it for them,” she said.
Earlier this year, Dorian’s story went viral, and photos began popping up on social media of signs reading #DStrong from Australia, Brazil, Germany, France, Syria, and notably China, where Dorian once told his father, Chris, that he’d like to “be famous.” Patriots player Rob Gronkowski, talk show personality Conan O’Brien, and singer Justin Bieber rank among the many celebrities who consequently reached out, communicating their admiration and well wishes.
All proceeds from sales of “Leaving a Mark” will go to the newly-established Dorian J. Murray Foundation and other pediatric cancer research organizations, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Lampion Press is selling the book online, at lampionpress.com.Isaac Feldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.