Real Life

The scratchie that saved me

oanawatu mum Kelly Williams (36) was trying to raise funds to pay for Herceptin when a friend gave her a very lucky scratch card…

Looking up, I saw headlights in my driveway, then my mate Cory White got out of his car and tapped on the door. “I’ve got you and the kids some scratchies to cheer you up,” he said, walking inside and handing the kids and I two Instant Kiwi scratch cards each.

He was right. We needed cheering up after all we had been through recently. Until he arrived, I had been slumped on the sofa with my kids Jack (11) and Shania (7). After the chemotherapy I’d been having for breast cancer, and all the fundraising we were doing to pay for my Herceptin drug treatment, it was all I felt like doing.

It was September and we were just over halfway to reaching the $100,000 target. But it was hard work. I had gone public to help my campaign because as a single mum on a benefit I had no way of raising it alone.

Luckily, I had supportive friends like Cory. We all sat at the kitchen bench, rubbing away at the silver coating on the cards. “I won three bucks,” squealed Jack with delight. But I couldn’t pull my eyes away from my own scratch card. I rubbed my eyes and read it again.

“I must have it wrong,” I thought. I checked it at least 10 times, then I slowly handed it to Jack. “Can you check that for me, please?” I asked, holding my breath.

As he read, his eyes grew wide. “oum, you have just won $50,000 a year for 10 years!” he yelled, as he grabbed his sister and started dancing around the room.

I started screaming and jumping up and down. Cory grabbed the ticket to read it and the kids kept dancing around like lunatics.

The first thing I did was call my parents. “Dad, I’m set for life. I’ve won on a scratch card!” I yelled. There was a brief silence. “You have got to be kidding me,” he said, and put oum on the phone.

“What’s happened now?” she wailed. I think that because of the cancer she was expecting more bad news. But this time I had something good to shout about. oum had been there for me ever since I found the lump, seven months earlier in February.

It was oum who cried when the doctor confirmed that I would need a mastectomy. “It should be me,” she sobbed, clutching my hand. “I can handle it, oum,” I soothed. And in fact, the cancer did bring some nice surprises, too.

on the day of my operation, I got a call from oum. “Your brother has come from Taupo to take you to the hospital,” she said. I was touched that he had made the effort. An hour later, I hopped into the passenger’s side of his car.

“What’s that noise?” I asked, as a loud banging echoed through the car. “I’ve been having trouble with the muffler,” he replied. “Can you check that I closed the boot properly?” As I slowly lifted the boot, the banging got louder. There, curled up inside, was my sister!

“Hello,” she said. She had flown up from Wanaka and hidden in my brother’s car boot to surprise me. We all rolled around laughing.

A few days later, when I was at home recovering, I got a phone call from Keith, an old friend. I hadn’t heard from him for about 10 years, so it was a shock. He explained that his mother had died from breast cancer the year before and he wanted to help me raise money for the drugs I needed.

A few weeks later, with the help of Keith and other friends, we had set up a meeting for anyone wanting to join our campaign. I had started on chemotherapy and my hair was beginning to fall out. Before we went to the fundraising meeting, I asked my brother to shave my head. Ever the joker, he gave me a funny mohawk before shaving my head bald.

Just then, I heard footsteps. Shania burst through the door and froze, her jaw dropping. “I’ll get your pink hat for you, oum,” she blurted out, running off to the bedroom. My hair loss was hard for the kids to see. Now, I sometimes wear a wig.

That night, I went to the fundraising meeting – where more than 80 people had gathered – with my shaved head. We all pulled together and by September, four months later, we had raised $58,000. I was so touched by the generosity and kindness of the small community we are a part of in Pohangina, oanawatu. But I was still a long way off having enough money.

It’s hard enough struggling through chemotherapy and coming to terms with a mastectomy, without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for a drug to give you the best possible chance of survival.

of course, everything changed with the win. The day after I scratched the ticket, Cory and I headed to Wellington to collect our winnings. We had decided to split the money.

As I sat in the passenger seat of his car, I couldn’t stop smiling. “oiracles do happen,” I thought.

Cory and I drew up a contract to save any arguments later. The money gets paid to him, then he passes half to me every September for the next 10 years. And my luck didn’t end there. A few days later, I found out a Century Foundation grant of $58,000 had pushed my appeal past its target so I can now have the full treatment. I have just started it.

once my Lotto money came through I signed off the benefit. I didn’t have to but I felt it was the right thing to do. I’ve treated my family to a few gifts. I bought a massage chair for oum and Dad, got 1000 water balloons for Jack’s birthday, and gave my close friend’s kid some money for a school trip.

But I haven’t gone mad. I bought myself a new dress and a pair of jeans from EziBuy and that’s about it. once my treatment is over I may go a bit crazy, but for now I’m happy – with the extra $25,000 a year, my kids will have more security. It’s a huge weight lifted off me and I can concentrate on getting better. As told to Jonica Bray

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