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Staying positive through cancer

"I thought, ‘I can’t die, I’ve got kids. I’ve got to be around for them'," says Wellington mum Jayne.

A little pampering goes a long way. And when you are facing rounds of gruelling chemotherapy, radiotherapy and invasive medical treatment, it goes even further.
Jayne Tranter (42) would know.
Diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2012, a bit of “me time” can take the edge off a day where she faces aches and pains, and often debilitating nausea.
“I have times when I’m really achy because I’ve had a monthly infusion for bone-strengthening,” she shares.
“Sometimes it’s really good to go and have a treatment, like a facial or a massage when you’re struggling physically or feeling mentally fragile.”
The Wellington mother is able to take this precious time for herself thanks to Sweet Louise. Established in 2005, the charity is there for New Zealanders who are living with secondary or incurable breast cancer.
It acts as a support network and holds regular meetings for members to connect with others who are going through the same health struggles. It also provides $500 worth of vouchers, which can be redeemed on therapies or services to improve a person’s quality of life while facing cancer.
“They are wonderful,” Jayne declares. “My coordinator is someone who I can talk to when I’m having a rough day. The voucher system is amazing too.
“You can get food deliveries and if you need to put money towards a wig, they can help with that.”
Jayne and Brad say it’s the small acts of kindness that put a smile on her face and help her get through a pain-filled day.
Her husband Brad Ward (42) says the team at Sweet Louise are unsung heroes.
“It puts a big smile on Jayne’s face,” he tells. “Once a year, which is great for us as a family, they sponsor us to go away – whether it be a night at a hotel or something. Otherwise, you forget to do some of those nice sorts of things away from the nitty gritty of what’s happening with Jayne’s health.”
Jayne was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, when the couple’s first daughter Amelia (now 11) was two years old.
“Everybody is different,” says Jayne. “I didn’t have a big lump or anything. It was a dimple, like the skin had puckered. I was so lucky my GP sent me to a breast surgeon to be safe.”
After chemotherapy treatment, Jayne was given the all-clear and went back to normal life. She and Brad had another child, Ben (now six). But when their son was two years old, Jayne once again felt something wasn’t right.
“My doctor sent me for an X-ray. I was given a secondary diagnosis, which was just really, really bad,” she says quietly.
The cancer had not only returned, but spread to her lungs, liver and to some of her bones.
“I thought, ‘I can’t die, I’ve got kids. I’ve got to be around for them.’ From then on, they threw everything at me and I said, ‘Give it to me, I’ll do anything.’”
Brad describes that time as a blur, when the family prepared for the worst.
The couple are big believers in remaining positive and want to send a strong message out to those facing similar challenges.
“Once you’ve got cancer, it doesn’t mean it’s immediately over,” asserts Jayne.
“Yes, many people can live for years with a terminal diagnosis,” agrees Brad. “We know we can deal with it. You develop a high level of resilience over the years.”
Brad says he’s in awe of Jayne’s bravery.
“My wife is pretty amazing. It’s hard for any partner to understand how the other person is feeling – you can see the physical things – but sometimes the person going through the treatment doesn’t like to tell you everything.”
It’s this steadfast love and support that Jayne credits with helping her get through those especially tough days.
“I love my family dearly. They keep me buoyant and keep me going. They are so precious to me. My kids keep me motivated. I want to be around for them.
“I’m always looking forward and thinking about the future. You have to have little goals and nice things to look forward to, and Sweet Louise helps with that. I hold on to ‘tomorrow is another day’ and you just have to keep pushing on.”
Sweet Louise relies solely on donations and volunteers to provide that much-needed support to those dealing with incurable cancer. To donate or help, go to sweetlouise.co.nz
Words: Ciara Pratt

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