Peta's story

Peta was absolutely incredible, she never stopped fighting and never stopped smiling that beautiful smile.

- Kate, Peta's Mum

Peta was a happy, easygoing 9-year-old who seemed to take everything in her stride.  Then, in just a two-week period, her whole life turned on its head.


A very active girl, Peta was involved in cross-country running, athletics training, and gymnastics, and had begun to develop a passion for horse-riding. She was also a good student and had decided she wanted to be a vet when she grew up. Her mother, Kate, describes her as determined and driven, but in a lovely way, she was a quiet achiever. “She was just a very sweet child,” she says.

Peta had the most loving, caring nature that you could imagine. She was always thinking of others.

- Kate, Peta's Mum


Kate noticed Peta was looking tired around the eyes, was getting a few more colds than normal, and had started to have night sweats. She’d taken her to the doctor twice for a blood test, but the results were normal. When Peta developed a tummy problem, then started vomiting and got so weak she could hardly get out of bed, Kate realised there was something seriously wrong.

It all happened within about two weeks. She went very, very quickly downhill.

- Kate, Peta's Mum


Twice, Kate took Peta to the local hospital but was told it was ‘just a virus’. The third time around, the paediatrician noticed that the pupil in one of Peta’s eyes was higher than the other, and Peta went for an MRI. “That’s when they told me they realised she had a bleed on the brain, and that it was likely to be a tumour,” Kate says. Peta was airlifted to John Hunter Hospital, where surgeons operated on her tumour and confirmed the diagnosis: medulloblastoma.


Following surgery, Peta began radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The doctors were optimistic she would recover, and Kate and Peta did everything possible to make sure she did. Peta ran every day she could, even when weak. She hoped to get back to her sport as soon as possible, and despite harsh chemotherapy, amazed the doctors by how well she responded. After being given the all-clear she was sent home, returning to hospital every three months for checkups.

Treatment was horrendous, but she came through as well as you could have hoped. She was amazing.

- Kate, Peta's Mum


Only six months after Peta finished treatment, Kate began to notice worrying signs. Normally very flexible, Peta began to get very stiff in her legs. After reading some research suggesting that tight hamstrings could be caused by spinal tumours, Kate sought medical advice, but the doctor was unconcerned. Devastatingly, when Peta went in for her scan a few weeks later, several small tumours were found, along with sugar coating of cancer cells down the spinal cord, which meant surgery wasn’t an option.

Clinical Trial

Kate was determined to fight on, despite being told there was ‘virtually zero chance’ of a recovery, and had Peta enrolled on a clinical trial. However, tragedy struck when a bleed from one of the tumors on her spine resulted in paraplegia.  “After that, with the invaluable help of Peta's eldest sister Willa and father Jim, there was constant, meticulous, nursing and care performed with immense love and hope. “We watched our precious daughter and sister decline as the cancer continued to spread” says Kate. “Even then, I just couldn’t accept or comprehend that I was going to lose her.” Peta, too, remained hopeful, telling her coach that she was going to be back running before long.

It’s just so wrong. For children to have to go through this, and parents to have to bury their children, there’s nothing crueler. Reliving everything that your child went through due to cancer is absolutely unbearable.

- Kate, Peta's Mum

Peta's legacy

Peta fought to the very end, showing all who knew her what bravery and determination look like. “She melted the hearts of all who knew her” says Kate. Reflecting on her experience, Kate says that at no point in Peta's life did her internal beauty cease to radiate brightly. “Her kind and generous nature, her courage, strength, and determination, all her exemplary qualities, she displayed in abundance, to the end, through the cruelest circumstances. Her battle with cancer highlighted the true beauty of her nature. Peta was, and will always remain, an inspiration.

Tildy's Sausage Sensation

Whilst receiving treatment, it was suggested that Peta write about something that interested her. Peta chose to write about her beloved dog Tildy, the puppy who brought her so much hapiness and helped her cope with treatment.

After Peta's passing, Kate decided to work on The Short Stories of Tildy, and published Tildy's Sausage Sensation in memory of Peta. Part of the profits from the book will be donated to the Children's Cancer Institute to raise money for vital research.

The death of a child is not just the cruel loss of that child's future life, hopes and dreams, and the enormous loss to the parents - it is the loss to the world. Peta was the most incredible, giving person. She was so bright and determined, I know she would have done so much good. We should view childhood cancer not just in terms of the number of cases, but in terms of the total life years lost, says Kate.

- Kate, Peta's Mum

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