Make-A-Wish shop­ping spree cheers up Es­ther

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JENNY LING

When Es­ther Pekepo was di­ag­nosed with T-cell pan­ni­culi­tis lym­phoma, a rare form of cancer, her re­ac­tion was dif­fer­ent to most. She breathed a sigh of re­lief. ‘‘At first I didn’t know, when I heard lym­phoma I thought ‘sweet I don’t have cancer’,’’ she says.

‘‘I didn’t know it was the same thing.’’

It wasn’t un­til she took to the in­ter­net to do some re­search that she learned what it meant.

The Make-A-Wish Foun­da­tion has stepped in to cheer up the brave 19-year-old from the Cook Is­lands as she pre­pares for three months of gru­elling chemo­ther­apy.

The char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion gave her $2000 to spend at Sylvia Park.

‘‘Be­ing away from home I have faced a lot of fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties and it was a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence es­pe­cially get­ting the ne­ces­si­ties like a TV, bed and draw­ers, that would set me up for later on as well,’’ she says. ‘‘I cre­ated a haven for my­self.

‘‘It’s go­ing to be handy be­cause I’m go­ing to be do­ing a lot of treat­ment.’’

Ms Pekepo’s symp­toms started with lumps on her chest and arms in 2011.

Her tem­per­a­ture would fluc­tu­ate from be­ing ex­tremely hot to re­ally cold and she lost her ap­petite.

‘‘I had biop­sies and bone mar­row biop­sies and more blood tests and more doc­tors.

‘‘I had heaps of [med­i­cal] people be­ing re­ally cu­ri­ous with what I had. I felt like I was in an episode of House.’’

Ms Pekepo starts six cy­cles of chemo­ther­apy the day af­ter the Pasi­fika Fes­ti­val fin­ishes on March 10.

This year all gold coin do­na­tions col­lected dur­ing the two-day fes­ti­val at Western Springs will go to MakeA-Wish New Zealand.

Ms Pekepo has so far re­lied on the good­will of friends be­cause her par­ents and three sis­ters and brother live in the Cook Is­lands.

One of her sis­ters is trav­el­ling to New Zealand in time for her sec­ond round of chemo­ther­apy, and the pair will move Ms Pekepo from her Man­gere Bridge flat to New­mar­ket to be closer to Auck­land hospi­tal.

She says the shop­ping spree ‘‘made me feel like I can still live a lit­tle’’.

‘‘I’m re­ally grate­ful for the ex­pe­ri­ence that I had. ‘‘Ev­ery­one I met was so nice and made me feel like I was on some sort of pedestal and made me feel loved.’’

Brave teen: Es­ther Pekepo is ex­cited to go on a Make-A-Wish Foun­da­tion funded shop­ping spree be­fore she starts chemo­ther­apy.

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