Peter Vu’s story is an exceptional one. The first things one notices about Peter are his bright eyes and gentle smile. He radiates an aura of optimistic calm. Yet these impressions belie the fact that life for Peter hasn’t been easy. Nor would you guess the great difficulties he has had to face on his journey thus far

When he was six years old, Peter was diagnosed with a brainstem glioma, a rare form of cancer that, when malignant, attacks the spinal cord near the brain, the centre controlling breathing, the heart and other everyday functioning. It is one of the three most common forms of cancer found in children and requires surgery in most cases. Not long after being diagnosed, Peter had his first operation, which resulted in a two month period of hospitalisation. This began a series of operations that occurred when he was 7, 11 and 14, each disrupting his schooling and resulting in hospital stays.

Peter’s last and most significant surgery was performed when he was 16 and halfway through Year 10. Peter was once again hospitalised for a two month period after which, he was home bound for two years and became a wheelchair user.

It was during this time at home that Peter wrote his novel Paper Cranes Don’t Fly, for which he was awarded the 2018 Gold Inky Award. The story describes the experiences of a cancer patient and focuses not just on surviving cancer but living through it with the help of patience, love and friendship.

Despite his diagnosis and operations, Peter hadn’t given up on completing high school even though he had missed so much. He was familiar with the CAE, as he had enrolled in the Splice art program, and he had learnt that CAE also offers VCE courses. Peter enrolled in VCE and completed units in English and Maths Methods. In 2017, he continued his studies and graduated in 2018 with an ATAR ranking of 83.65. In 2019, he was named VCE Student of the Year.

For Peter, studying VCE at the CAE allowed him to complete the qualification in his own timeframe and at the pace that was best suited for him. Despite the challenges he has had to face, Peter believes that, “there is always something to smile about”. He believes that above all, we should treasure our friendships, which fill our lives with joy, and that you may not know why or how your friends are your friends, but you will know that you’re glad that they are.

Peter is currently completing a Bachelor of Accounting with Swinburne Online.