Support people affected by cancer in Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Whanganui, and Taranaki
My name is Kanila (Grace) Patel,
My cancer journey began two years ago when all of a sudden my stomach started to grow. Over a short period of time I developed such a large stomach that an outside observer could have thought I was carrying triplets! I went to the doctor and was initially misdiagnosed as simply being overweight. I was told to get a personal trainer or go on a diet, but I knew something was wrong and persisted. It was June last year when I discovered it was cancer. My uncle who was supported by the Cancer Society during his cancer journey suggested I should seek help from the Cancer Society.
We weren’t sure initially what sort of cancer we were dealing with, but the doctors knew surgery was needed. The surgery to remove the tumour in my stomach was only offered 12 times in a year, with a very high bar to access it. Often people with my condition are told to go home and enjoy what’s left, but with the support of the Cancer Society I was able to meet the requirements and get the operation. In a three and a half hour surgery I lost 14kgs, my total body weight went from 66kgs, 52 kg in just one surgery. After that surgery they realised more was going on, that’s when the type of cancer I had was diagnosed. I had a “one in a million” cancer, periponeal mesophelioma.
March this year I had an 11 and a half hour surgery, lost multiple organs, almost died twice in the 16 day stay at the hospital to remove what was left. They were successful but unfortunately the cancer is only treatable, not curable.
The Cancer Society helped me significantly through this journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally. When my hair started to fall out and started having skin reactions from chemo the Cancer Society offered me hats and caps funding. There was constant support and options available to me no matter what struggle I was going through. I wanted a massage to help with the pain but I was afraid a massagist might do the wrong thing, the Cancer Society provided access to an expert massagist who I could be confident in. For my surgeries I needed transport to and from treatment, as well as accommodation support. I got told that if you don’t have a community service card you don’t qualify, the Cancer Society stepped in and organised transport funding approval and an accommodation supplement. When I was struggling to eat Rebecca, my supportive care person, came round with protein shakes to help me.
The Cancer Society provided truly amazing wrap around support. I knew I could call them about anything, they are a part of my family now. I am so grateful to the support their amazing team provided.
Having grown up in New Zealand but come from an Indian background I know a number of families where when someone is diagnosed with cancer their view is that “you must have done bad deeds in your past life”. I want to use this new life I have been given to be brave, strong, and reach out to others to teach them that cancer is not their fault. It’s not something to be ashamed of, there’s no harm in reaching out for help, holding someone’s hand, and wiping someone’s tears.
Thanks to the Cancer Society I will be staying in my home in the Hawke’s Bay. My parents live in Auckland and as a family we were looking at moving me up there, but my mum said to me “I’m not worried about you staying in the Hawke’s Bay. You have enough support from the Cancer Society, you’re loved and supported, we don’t need to move you back to Auckland”.
Grace lives in Hawke’s Bay with partner and daughter, plus two small dogs, Mia and Leo. She is excited to be stepping forward into a new lease on life with a focus on helping others experiencing cancer and encouraging them to reach out for support.
The Cancer Society relies on donations to fund the free services that they provide. Setting up a regular donation is the best way to make sure someone like me can get this support. Please go to their website cancer.org.nz/donate-now/ to set this up.