When Gina Peca walked through the doors of East Line Books in Clifton Park two years ago, she was terrified and overwhelmed.
But she did not let fear stop her. Peca felt compelled to tell her story, a story she had been carrying around with her for nearly a decade.
It was the story of her daughter, Catie Hoch, who at just 9 years of age died of neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer. Now Peca’s memoir, “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing,” is complete and will hit the shelves Friday at the Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland.
Peca’s daughter Catie was known for her positive outlook on life, despite her grim diagnosis. She inspired all around her, according to Peca, and she hopes her story will continue to inspire now that it is in print.
“I want them to see the world of pediatric cancer through her eyes,” she said. “I think her vision was unique.”
Catie taught Peca many lessons during her 9 years of life, and Peca hopes she can pass those important lessons on to her readers.
“She still managed to find joy,” Peca said. “For her to go through this and to try to protect us and to face her death with such an amazing amount of courage, I feel blessed that I got to be her mother.”
Peca, who also lost her husband, Larry Hoch, to cancer last year, said writing this book has been a part of the healing process.
“I think the book is helping,” she said. “Larry wanted Catie’s story to be told.”
The Catie Hoch Foundation, which uses the motto “Helping Kids Take a Break from Cancer,” has helped thousands of children impacted by pediatric cancer.
Peca, the cofounder and president of the foundation, feared after her husband’s passing that she would no longer be able to raise funds. She said writing the book has helped her remember her purpose and work through her grief.
The book will sell for $25. It can also be found on Amazon.com and on the foundation’s website, www.catiehochfoundation.org. All proceeds will go directly to the Catie Hoch Foundation.
Peca wants her book, like Catie’s life, to bring joy. She believes her readers will get to know Catie and be inspired by her courage.
“I think people will be surprised a book about pediatric cancer will make you smile,” she said. “I think they will be surprised a story that they think will be very sad will actually lift their spirits.”
When Peca walked through the doors of East Line Books, she had no idea she would end up writing a memoir. But East Line helped give Peca the confidence she needed to complete her story.
“She had this wonderful goal to write about the joy of her daughter’s life,” said Robyn Ringler, the owner of East Line Books and a creative writing teacher. “I loved her proposal for the book at the beginning.”
Ringler said Peca took one of her creative writing classes. She would write at home and then bring the chapters to class. She said she helped Peca imagine and remember the concrete details of the times she spent with Catie.
Many memoirs tend to be sad, she said, but not this one. “It’s not really about the cancer; it is really about her relationship with Catie,” Ringler said. “It is just a must-read. It is a beautiful story.”
Ringler said she helped Peca learn how to turn off her inner critic and realize her full potential. “The most important advice I gave her was to write from the heart,” she said.
Susan Novotny of the Book House also took a special interest in Peca’s book, according to the Catie Hoch Foundation. Novotny chose the book as one of the Staff Picks Press books, and the store will host the official launch of “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing” on Friday.
Peca has found herself surrounded by many generous and helpful people over the years. Most notable of them was “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.
Peca’s book details many of Catie’s interactions with Rowling. During the final stages of Catie’s life, Rowling asked if she could read parts of the fourth book in the Harry Potter series to Catie over the phone.
“It was incredible,” Peca said. “She has been so kind and generous to us.”
Over the years, the unique relationship between Catie and Rowling flourished. Rowling inspired Catie, but Peca quickly found out that Catie inspired Rowling, too. On the front cover of Peca’s book, a quote from Rowling sits next to a picture of Catie.
“Catie left footprints on my heart,” it reads.
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