Quinn was 7 years old when she had a stroke caused by a bleeding tumour. It was just after this time that I met her at Ronald McDonald House in Auckland. Cooking with such a young cancer patient was challenging but Quinn was determined. Often she was too sick to eat, but she still wanted to be engaged in the process. Her spirit was infectious.
She went on to be diagnosed with a rare aggressive malignant brain cancer in her temporal lobe called a Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumour (PNET) in February 2013. I met her around this time and since then she has had brain surgery twice, 31 doses of radiotherapy, 4 cycles of high dose chemotherapy. stem cell rescue and needed to learn to walk again. The tumour has left her with a brain injury that gives her chronic fatigue and a right-sided hemiplegia (weak arm and leg).
Visiting her home
I have visited her outside of Ronald McDonald House in her home of Palmerston North twice. Once I travelled to cook with her at her Primary School and we cooked for the whole day with her peers, teaching them to wrap Vietnamese rice paper rolls. Quinn reminded me then that her favourite thing to cook with me had been dumplings! I must remember this so I don’t let her down next time.
Visiting her school
In 2018 I visited Quinn at Ross Intermediate school and we cooked with her class and even managed to cook up a storm with two other classes during the day also. She came stoically in her wheelchair, determined to try to use her functioning hand to cut and dice alongside her peers. She was happy to see we were frying the spring rolls this time. But, it still wasn’t dumplings!
I love Quinn and her determined spirit and strong supportive family. It has been a privilege to be a part of her journey.
And next time we will cook dumplings!