Described as “her only source of peace,” Princess Vinnett was only 10 years old when she chronicled the experience of losing her mother to breast cancer.
“I could journal to God to tell everything and there was no judgment on the other end of that paper,” said the Destrehan native.
Vinnett’s carefully written notes stayed with her for 11 years until she decided it was time “to let them go” and write a book. How she coped with the instability that came with her mother’s illness is evident by reading her novel,“A Princess’s Diary: The Pain Behind My Name.”
She didn’t foresee a book when she started her diary, but over time she realized it was a story that needed to be told about how children deal with this change and loss.
Vinnett said she had no one to confide in about this except the diary and there was much to write about.
“From a stable home, it went to chaos with my mother getting treatments in California,” she said. “My father was flying back and forth to help my mother, and our grandmother moved in to help.”
By her junior year at Destrehan High School, she sawinformation about being a caretaker or being sick, but nothing about younger children and what they went through.“I decided my book could be a lifeline to other people,”
Vinnett said. “I felt the need to release it.”
She compiled her diary and her father, who owns a publishing company, published her book.
A Princess’s Diary covers about six months of Vinnett’s life, from her mother’s diagnosis with cancer to her death on Jan. 2, 2007.
Vinnett said losing her mother, Lynn Lee Vinnett, was incredibly hard.
“I was a momma’s girl,” she said. “I wanted to be with her all the time. She juggled everything so gracefully. As a girl, I was like so shocked and impressed at who she was.”
Now 21 years old and an accounting student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Vinnett said she sees things differently about the experience. Also, the book has opened doors in her life that lets her talk about the experience, which she does at a growing number of locations where she speaks publicly.
“I couldn’t see God’s hand in the situation then or anything good in it, but now I see I was not alone and God was truly with me through the whole situation,” she said. “I released it to be a light to other people and a resource of healing … and to children because exactly what I wrote at 10 years old undergoing this at a child’s perspective.”
Vinnett has become an advocate for cancer survivors.
“Breast cancer awareness … that’s my heart,” she said. “I’m honestly in the process of trying to get something together to be a support all year long. I feel more has happened, personally, with getting an understanding … how to take care of yourself.”
She’s also working on her second book about what she believes a healthy relationship looks like that also focuses on younger women’s self-image.
“I just find it’s kind of incredible despite my dad juggling raising three kids out of nowhere, but he did a really good job letting us know that we were loved and that we have a value … that we were special,” Vinnett said. “We shouldn’t settle for anyone who didn’t honor that and that we respected ourselves. Despite everything – him losing a wife and being older now – I can’t imagine his disposition, but now I just see things differently.”
This is definitely something that she believes would have made her mother proud.
“I know that the day before she passed she just told us, ‘Your dad loves you and he will always be there for you,’” Vinnett said.
This all factored in to her story as a 10-year-old dealing with traumatic loss, and now she wants to share it so others don’t have to suffer alone.