In Sickness and in Health - episode 1

You would think everyone would be eager to talk about it. After all, it kills more New Zealanders than anything else. One out of every three of us develop some form of it during our lifetime. Sixty people a day in this country are told “You have cancer.” And it costs over $800 million of our taxes every year to try and manage it.

But for all that, cancer remains the elephant in the room, despite all the efforts to get people screened and tested and educated and able to talk about it. And when it happens to you, as it did to me without warning, I was more ignorant, and more frightened than most, about what to expect.

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In Sickness and in Health – Episode 2

Once your cancer has been properly diagnosed and you’ve been scanned and measured for the treatment, the strangest things start to happen to you.

Tattooing for a start. Permanently so, what’s more, with X marks to ensure the radiation beams hit the exact spot. Aimed wrongly they’d be messy.

I’d always wanted a tattoo but had enjoyed no encouragement from my family at all. So here was my big chance.

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In Sickness and in Health – Episode 3

High-tech medicine might be fun for the professionals but it creates a strange, strange world for those on the receiving end. You’re surrounded by machines that cost more than you’d earn in a lifetime and that work on your body in utterly mysterious ways.

Is there any other experience in my life quite as weird as this one? Attacking something so serious and life-threatening, with a treatment you can’t see or feel or find anything familiar with, is like nothing else I know. Radiotherapy belongs more to the world of science fiction than a visit to the doctor. It’s just about as exotic and baffling as the world of Star Wars, full of machines and creatures you’d never seen before.

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In Sickness and in Health – Episode 4

Staying ever-hopeful through long term treatment for cancer or any other life threatening disease for that matter is only part of the story. Not all of us are good at coping with the relentless positivity modelled by medical staff, admirable though it is.

As you face up to your condition and give yourself over to the treatment, hunkering down to deal with it, there are times when everything looks pretty bleak. And to get through that involves the gentle but steel edged art of waiting.

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In Sickness and in Health – Episode 5

What might you find when through some major illness or crisis, you end up like Alice in Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole? If you’re lucky, a whole new community awaits you that you didn’t know even existed before.

You join it through no effort of your own. No application form is needed. The experience of being seriously unwell for a while is enough. And when you have been through that, you find that a whole host of other people you didn't know about have been as well.

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In Sickness and in Health – Episode 6

This has been a series about getting through illness and the treatments we’re offered; learning to talk about them more easily; even laugh about them; staying hopeful in our waiting and not discouraged by our wondering. Especially the wondering.

Because being seriously ill is bad enough. What’s worse are the distractions that come with it. All the self-pity, the lingering regrets if only I’d done this and not that, the envy and the silly wish lists, I should have gone to hear Leonard Cohen, bought that bike, bungy jumped off the Sky Tower, started playing trumpet at 5 not 45.

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Diana Ayling

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