Home        Forum        Games

Rowling's moving message for girl dying of cancer

Paul Harris
Sunday December 29, 2002
The Observer

It is an extraordinary tale of a young American girl dying of cancer and her unique contact with one of the world's most successful authors - and one of its most secretive.

JK Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, is famed for guarding her private life. But a letter from the mother of Catie Hoch broke down the barriers and led to an amazing friendship that ended with Rowling donating 75,000 to a cancer charity in her memory.

Revealed for the first time today is the tale of how Catie's mother, Gina Peca, wrote an email to Rowling's publishers expressing the fear that Catie would die before the next Harry Potter book would be published. She spoke movingly of how the books - three of which had been published by then - had brought great joy to her daughter's short life.

Catie was such a Potter fan that she would wear a Harry Potter outfit as she went to hospital to be treated for her neuroblastoma condition, a childhood cancer that was spreading from her kidneys to her spine.

Instead of a standard email back, Peca and Catie were stunned to receive a message from Rowling herself a few weeks later. 'I am working very hard on book four at the moment,' Rowling wrote, before giving details of the plot of the upcoming Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That made Catie, nine, the first person in the outside world to hear details of the book, which at the time was a closely guarded publishing secret.

'This is all TOP SECRET, so you are allowed to tell your mum... but no one else or you'll be getting an owl from the Ministry of Magic,' Rowling joked in the message.

After Catie replied, Rowling, who herself has a young daughter, Jessica, was back in touch again. The two went on to strike up a moving friendship that crossed the generations and the Atlantic. Rowling even sent Catie a stuffed toy of one of the characters from her new book, Pigwidgeon.

But their friendship was to prove to be short-lived. As her health deteriorated during 2000 Catie became unable to use a computer. Peca emailed Rowling to tell her the bad news and a few days later Rowling made an offer that for any one of the millions of Potter fans would be a dream come true. She would get to speak to the woman whose books she had enjoyed so much. 'I am thinking of you so much,' Rowling wrote to Peca. 'Please let me know if I can do anything.'

A few days later - using a speaker phone so that Catie's whole family could listen - Rowling read Catie extracts from the new book. It was an incredible experience for the young girl. 'We laid Catie down on the living room couch and Jo read to her over the phone. Catie's face just lit up,' Peca recalls.

Rowling told Catie that she hoped to meet her when she was over in America for a book tour. But time was against the pair. Catie died on 18 May 2000.

Three days after her death Rowling wrote to comfort Peca and her husband, Larry. She said it was her - not Catie - who had been honoured by the friendship. 'I consider myself privileged to have had contact with Catie,' she wrote. 'I can only aspire to being the sort of parents both of you have been to Catie during her illness. I am crying so hard as I type. She left footprints on my heart.'

Rowling later made a 75,000 donation to the Catie Hoch Foundation, which raises funds to help pay for treats for children who are suffering from cancer.

The correspondence remained secret until now, when Peca released details of the friendship in order to help raise more funds for the organisation.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Dan's Project:

The Snitch
Fans of Rowling

"Harry Potter" and all other proper names from the Harry Potter book series are trademarks of Joanne Kathleen Rowling and the TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, L.P. The Wireless Wizarding Network is not here to infringe upon any copyrights or to break any laws. If you have a problem with something you see on this website please contact us via our Feedback Form.
This site is hosted by

All original content Copyright © 2003-2012 T.W.W.N. All Rights Reserved.

Privacy Policy  |  Feedback   |  Site Credits  |  Admin