'When cancer attacks, you have to fight' - picture book's message to young patients
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 on Sunday.
"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, north of Wellington.
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 hospital for more radiation.
"It [the launch] was such a big lifter. Leading up to the book launch 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.