Rowling's moving message for girl dying of cancer
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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