Raising funds for Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Service and Ranui House a year after chemo and a transplant by taking on 3 big challenges!
From Coast to Coast to life-threatening disease and back again!
18 months ago, aged 16 and having just completed my very first Coast to Coast 2 weeks earlier, I was told the devastating news no teenager or family ever wants to hear, I had extensive cancer of the spine and pelvis - things did not look good! Roll on 8 months of every test imaginable, 3 different diagnoses, a fair few sleepless nights, some scary trips to A&E, and I finally received the final genome testing back from Finland. I was told what I actually had was not cancer, but a very rare 1 in a million, life-threatening, autoimmune blood disease, Aplastic Anaemia.
Put simply, I was told I was dying, and that there was a chance the treatment, chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant, could kill me - all pretty confronting stuff for a 17-year-old! My platelets (responsible for blood clotting) were dangerously low and the was a chance of a brain bleed or simply bleeding out. Thankfully things moved pretty fast after my final diagnosis and I had a little bit of luck in that my little brother Liam was a perfect match and happy to be my bone marrow donor. So, on November the 29th 2020, my family and I headed down to Christchurch so that I could begin some of the most aggressive chemotherapy there is, before undergoing my bone marrow transplant on December the 11th.
During the four long months of treatment that followed, there were two incredible services that made such a difference to me and my family - in fact, it's fair to say I don't think I'd be here without them! They were the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Service who oversaw and coordinated my treatment and care and Ranui House where we stayed during my four months of treatment in Christchurch. Seeing and experiencing firsthand on a daily basis the amazing work both of these organisations do for so many different Kiwis and their families, I just knew I had to give back!
So, to help them, to help others get through their toughest and most challenging times, I will be attempting to overcome the odds by taking on three massive challenges:
1. HALF IRON MAN on 11th December 2021, A year to the day of my bone marrow transplant! My goal is to complete this and show that anything is possible!!
2. The COAST TO COAST in February 2022. I plan to compete in the 2-day individual, one of NZ's most grueling multisport events (this feels like unfinished business to me as it is something I had signed up to do again this year before my life got turned upside down).
3. IRONMAN NZ in March 2022. It has always been a goal of mine to complete a full ironman. Just 3 weeks after the Coast I know I'm going to have to dig even deeper and find a new level of mental grit and determination for this one! I am grateful to be the recipient of the Tony Jackson Scholarship which has made my entry into Ironman possible.
My aim in completing these 3 challenges is to raise awareness, and much-needed funds, for Ranui House and the AYA Cancer Service. They helped to save my life, supporting both me and my family through what has arguably been the toughest 18 months and the biggest challenge I have ever faced! I also hope to inspire and motivate others to achieve their goals no matter what personal challenges they may face and prove that even through adversity, anything can be achieved when you set your mind to it.
A bit more about the two incredible charities I'm doing this for and how the money raised will be used:
1. ADOLESCENT & YOUNG ADULT CANCER SERVICE (AYACS)
As I found out, the AYACS helps improve outcomes for 12-24yr olds diagnosed with cancer by coordinating their care and providing much-needed psychosocial assessment, comfort & support to them and their families. This incredible service, its amazing team of people, and all the support they wrap around patients and their families helped save my life and helped to get me and my family through!
The AYA Cancer Service team works together to ensure each AYA patient gets the care and support that they require, along with ensuring that the unique needs of young cancer patients are met -they've even set up a lounge on the BMT ward where you can meet and talk with other young adults going through similar treatment and the AYA rooms on the ward have fold-down beds which mean you can have a parent stay with you - my mum was so incredibly grateful for this! The team consists of AYA Cancer Keyworker, Adult Haematologists, Adult Oncologists, Paediatric Oncologists, Psychologists, Radiation Specialists, and Allied Health professionals.
The AYA Cancer Service set up the Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Charitable Fund (managed by the Maia Foundation) in 2020 to raise money to meet the unmet needs of young people diagnosed with cancer in the south island.
The key aims of the Charitable fund are to:
- Pay for FERTILITY PRESERVATION for young people who don’t qualify for MOH funding
- Provide PALLIATIVE CARE GRANTS to young people who are not going to survive their cancer. This will assist them to tick off some of their bucket lists, and create special memories for their friends & families to treasure.
- Provide COMFORT PACKS to each new young person diagnosed with cancer in the Canterbury, West Coast, and Nelson/Marlborough region. This will have an overnight bag, “oodie"(wearable blanket), drink bottle, headphones, eye mask, games, etc.
We spent a total of 115 days at Ranui House, for 26 of those I was in Christchurch hospital just across the river, and the remainder I was receiving daily treatment as an outpatient. For four months, Ranui House provided us a home away from home. It made it possible for us to stay together as a family, it meant mum and dad could be there at my bedside through all the tough days, and there were a few of those! And it took a lot of stress away from what can only be described as the most stressful and challenging time of our lives. We'd never heard of Ranui before all of this and I don't know what we would've done without them - we will always be eternally grateful to Ranui and the incredible team who made us feel so welcome.
Ranui is a home-away-from-home for patients and their families who travel to Christchurch for life-saving medical treatment. From Gisborne in the North, to Stewart Island in the South, and the Chatham’s, seriously ill New Zealanders drive or fly hundreds of kilometers to Christchurch for life-saving treatments such as chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, heart surgery, difficult pregnancies, neonatal care, kidney transplants, dialysis, general surgery, and a host of other serious illnesses. Leaving their homes, friends, farms, workplaces, and communities for days, weeks, and even months to undergo treatment at Christchurch Hospital.
Ranui is currently having to turn away 2-3 patients and their families a day! They desperately need to raise funds for the ongoing refurbishments and the day-to-day running of Ranui and for the new build of a purpose-built facility. This expansion of Ranui from 26 to 68 family apartments will mean they can help hundreds' more kiwi families each and every year, fulfilling their aim and passion of “Keeping Families Together” and providing a “Home Away From Home” when it is needed most. For over 30 years they have also funded vital medical research. The finances to operate all this comes from fundraising and donations as they do not receive any government funding.
Please help me to help thousands of other kiwi patients and their families get through their toughest and most challenging times by donating and sharing this page far and wide to as many people as possible.
All funds raised will be evenly divided between Ranui and AYA Cancer Service, so please give generously.
And if you'd like to follow my journey, progress, and training head on over to my Facebook page:
One down, two to go! 13 December 2021
Wanted to share this video of my first challenge with you all and say thank you so much for all of your support - it truly does mean the world to me.
Just over a year ago, I had finished one of the most aggressive forms of chemo you can take and was having my bone marrow transplant. Unable to walk, eat, and barely able to move.
As you know, a year to the day later (Saturday the 11th of December), I was signed up to do a half Ironman 70.3 in Taupo, but understandably that was canceled due to Covid. So with the help and support of friends and family, I headed up to Lake Rotoiti and have completed my 1.9km swim, 90km bike, and 21km run, my first (unofficial) half Iron man.
A huge shout out to everyone who came along and supported me in the pouring rain at Lake Rotoiti as I slogged it out for 6hrs and 58 mins. And of course, to my little brother Liam who was my bone marrow donor, without him I may not be here today, can’t thank you enough for being the best little brother in the world!!
Thanks again for all the love and support, from my diagnosis till now. Looking forward to taking on the Kathmandu Coast to Coast in Feb and the full Iron man NZ in March. 2022 is going to be another big one!
And to all of you who have donated thank you so much for your generous support, please continue to share out this page and the video so that we can reach the target!
All the best for a happy and safe New Year.
Thanks again, Brodie