Warrior fairy fights cancer

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - ADAM POULOPOULOS

As a child, Pe­tra Kotrot­sos chan­nelled the warrior fairy in her con­tin­u­ing bat­tle against cancer.

Now the 20-year-old’s al­ter-ego is help­ing other chil­dren to fight the same fight.

Kotrot­sos, from Welling­ton, is the au­thor of I’d Rather be a Fairy Princess, a book aimed at help­ing chil­dren cope with cancer, op­er­a­tions, treat­ment, hospi­tal stays and more.

The pic­ture book is based on the first of her own five bouts of neu­rob­las­toma.

First di­ag­nosed aged 6, she suc­cess­fully fought it four times by the age of 15. She un­der­went sev­eral rounds of chemo­ther­apy, ra­di­a­tion and a spinal re­con­struc­tion.

In the book, Kotrot­sos imag­ines her­self as a warrior fairy.

‘‘I’ve al­ways wanted to be a fairy princess but, when cancer at­tacks, you have to fight. You have to be a warrior,’’ it reads.

The book was launched at the Greek Com­mu­nity Hall in Welling­ton re­cently.

‘‘It ex­plains those things in kids’ lan­guage,’’ Kotrot­sos said.

‘‘That’s when I used the warrior fairy, to not make it seem so scary.’’

Kotrot­sos was first di­ag­nosed af­ter ‘‘a freak fall’’ from a round­about near her fam­ily’s bach in Waikanae Beach.

Af­ter the fall, she de­vel­oped chest pain and breath­ing prob­lems, and doc­tors dis­cov­ered a tu­mour.

She wrote her book with the help of a fam­ily friend and, af­ter read­ing it at a writ­ing work­shop last year, Makaro Press pub­lisher Mary McCallum asked her if she’d ever imag­ined it as a pic­ture book.

McCallum said the book told

the story of a coura­geous young woman.

‘‘It com­bines child­hood dreams with med­i­cal fact and more than a touch of magic – the per­fect way to help chil­dren with cancer and their fam­i­lies deal with the fight ahead of them.

‘‘We also hope it will help chil­dren with­out cancer to de­velop em­pa­thy for friends and class­mates fac­ing a cancer di­ag­no­sis.’’

Kotrot­sos’ fight re­sumed as the launch ap­proached. She was re­cently re­di­ag­nosed, with a small tu­mour at the base of her neck.

On the days be­fore and af­ter the launch she was back in hos- pital for more ra­di­a­tion.

‘‘It [the launch] was such a big lifter. Lead­ing up to the book launch it gave me some­thing more to fo­cus on,’’ she said.

Kotrot­sos and Makaro Press are in talks to pro­duce a more male-cen­tric ver­sion of the book if it is suc­cess­ful.

The pub­li­ca­tion is the latest dis­play of the Kil­birnie-based Kotrot­sos’ cre­ative tal­ents. She has her own video chan­nel, Pe­tra Vi­sion, on YouTube and Face­book, which doc­u­ments the last few months of her re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, and her latest di­ag­no­sis.

An as­pir­ing filmmaker, she di­rected Kom­boloi as part of last year’s 48-Hour Film Fes­ti­val.

I’d Rather be a Fairy Princess, writ­ten by Pe­tra Kotrot­sos and il­lus­trated by Christina Irini Arathi­mos, is stocked at the Chil­dren’s Book­shop in Kil­birnie, the Welling­ton Hospi­tal gift shop, and on the Makaro Press web­site.

KEVIN STENT

Welling­ton cancer pa­tient and au­thor Pe­tra Kotrot­sos shares her book with six year old Vic­to­ria Vysot­skaya at Welling­ton Hospi­tal. Left, Kotrot­sos at the book launch.

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