Author of Chocolat faces more surgery on fingers

Author Joanne Harris at home in Huddersfield
Author Joanne Harris at home in Huddersfield
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A BEST-selling author from South Yorkshire has spoken about life with a condition which causes her hands and fingers to curl up like a claw.

Joanne Harris, the Barnsley-born writer of Chocolat, is fighting the onset of Dupuytren’s contracture - a progressive condition which she has suffered for five years.

The novelist, who now lives in Huddersfield with husband Kevin and daughter Anouchka, 17, discovered a small hard lump on the palm of her right hand back in 2006.

Although it wasn’t painful, she went to her GP, who misdiagnosed a ganglion - a common and harmless cyst.

But then the lump started to grow and spread up towards her little finger, which started to bend.

Joanne said: “Within a few weeks, I couldn’t place my finger flat on the table.

“I remembered that my father had Dupuytren’s and went back to my GP, who immediately diagnosed it.

“I was referred to a specialist, who told me there was no cure.

“My finger would continue to contract and I might need an operation to remove the hardened tissue and free the finger.”

Joanne was warned there were risks to the operation, such as loss of feeling or mobility in the fingers, so she put it off.

But within a year her little finger was bent at 50 degrees, making writing difficult and her favourite pastimes of yoga and playing the flute impossible.

“I could still write and use a computer, but it was uncomfortable,” she said.

“I knew if I didn’t have it soon, my finger would curl up so tightly that it could never be straightened.”

In June 2008 Joanne had surgery on her left hand under general anaesthetic. By this point her finger was three-quarters curled up, and the tip almost touching the palm.

It was successful initially but now appears to have spread to her ring finger and she is faced with the possibility of undergoing further surgery.

She said: “It’s a question of monitoring it and deciding when is the right time to have something done. I’m trying to put it off until I know there’ll be a real benefit. ”