A wild costume for the Sevens, Aroha’s hope

A wild costume for the Sevens, Aroha’s hope

Aroha Andrews is learning how to sew. Something she has always wanted to do. A woman she did not know, out of the goodness of her heart, offered to teach her.

Aroha is delighted at the news that the Rugby Sevens competition is coming to Hamilton, she loves the fast game and is keen to make one of those wild costumes people wear to the event. But while most of us can look towards January next year with passable confidence we’ll still be here, Aroha knows that might not be the case for her. A couple of years ago the bubbly mum of four was diagnosed with cancer.

It started with a sore back. She went to the doctor and was given some pills. But the pain became unbearable, so serious she went up to Waikato Hospital’s Emergency Department. “They gave me a scan and it wasn’t good. They admitted me and I was put on medication straight away before I was able to get on chemotherapy. I had cancer of the spine. They found cancer in my left breast and I had a double mastectomy and lymph nodes removed to try to stop it.” Cancer treatment is no fun at all, diarrhoea, constipation, no appetite or what she does eat she can’t keep down.

The prognosis wasn’t flash. She was given to Christmas. “Knowing you don’t have long to live is great for focusing the mind. I really needed something to do. I started wanting to do more and started sewing lessons. Now my best days are Mondays when I have a visitor. A lady, out of the goodness of her heart, offered to teach me to sew. We started with a skirt. She’s blown away how fast I picked it up.” While in hospital she was introduced to Hospice Waikato, a community organisation which provides support and palliative care for the terminally ill and their families. “While I was in hospital they gave me brochures. I thought it (Hospice) was only for old people.

At that point I thought I was in my last few months.’’ One of her Hospice nurses organised funding for a family weekend away in Rotorua through Race4Life, a charitable organisation that grants wishes to the terminally ill. Aroha and her family spent a weekend in Rotorua where they stayed in a nice hotel and enjoyed a variety of activities including visits to the Polynesian Spa, Rainbow Springs, the gondolas, luge and the maze. “When I came home from hospital all I wanted was a hospital bed that was all I felt comfortable in. Hospice found me one until we got a new bed ourselves.”

She has also been helped by Sweet Louise, another organisation which supports women with secondary breast cancer with things like vouchers for lawn mowing, beauty therapy and home help. “They pay for fun days, so they paid for the boys and us to go up to Rainbow’s End.” Aroha and her partner Sam, a scaffolder, live with her mum Annie. They have four boys aged between 5 and 10 of whom three are keen rugby players now with Fraser Tech. She turned 35 earlier this month and family and friends had a big dinner at Gengy’s. “The boys love being able to choose.’’

Aroha lives day to day, week to week, as long as the chemo keeps the cancer at bay. “I hate chemo but I’m grateful that it’s working. It will be sad the day they tell me it’s not working. My prognosis is month by month. I see my oncologist at the end of the month.” “You need to have a positive attitude. Some days I’ll dwell on the bad but you’ve got to shake it off or you’ll feel worse. If I feel OK I do as much as I can. I’m aware of doing more stuff. It’s about making memories.’’