Waipukurau farewells Gracie
Waipukurau’s Grace Thompson, a 10-year-old girl with a “captivating smile and a contagious laugh”, passed away on Friday, October 5.
Gracie had been diagnosed with adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare disease caused by a cancerous growth in the adrenal cortex, at the end of February.
In the months since, Gracie became a big part of an “incredibly supportive” CHB community, says her mum Heidi, as a Givealittle page was established and individuals, groups and businesses started fundraising, donating money and vouchers, offering their services and providing baking and meals for the family.
“One of the first things we said when we received the diagnosis was ‘we will never leave her alone’,” says Heidi, for whom this meant stepping away from her job at Vet Services HB’s Waipukurau branch. “The team at Vet Services were amazing and incredibly supportive, which gave me the time to spend with Gracie.”
Settling into the family’s “new normal”, without their youngest member, is a daily challenge, Heidi says, “as Gracie was our shadow. For those seven months we were with her the whole time, at home or at Starship.”
Right from the start, Heidi says the family knew where they stood with this particular form of cancer. It was so rare — one in a million — that Starship had only had one other case.
“Because it was so rare the research wasn’t there, there was no proven treatment. The best option would have been surgery, but Gracie had secondaries in her lungs so surgery wasn’t an option.”
Instead Gracie had six weeks in hospital and several rounds of chemotherapy, all of which she took in her stride.
“She was always cruisey, even as a baby. She never wanted to make a fuss, she was always keen to please. She continued to smile and enjoy every day.”
For Gracie that meant enjoying her family, her pony Bella, Ziggy the family dog and riding her bike.
A family trip to Queenstown, made possible by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, was a chance to make memories including a hot air balloon ride, parasailing, horse riding and mountain biking on an electric bike.
“She had no pain, it was really special, just us and Gracie. She did everything we did. For us it was about spending as much time together as we could, in the time that we had — though we never wanted to believe that was all the time we had.
“We carried on living as much as we could — as she could. She carried on riding her pony until two weeks before she died.”
Heidi says she and husband Chris drew from Gracie’s courage and strength.
“You do what you have to do, as a parent.”
Heidi says the support of the CHB community helped the family to be there for Gracie.
“She was making plaster of paris hearts and painting them — it was therapy for her and she was very good at it — these are being spread throughout homes and businesses in CHB as a thank you, in memory of Gracie.”
A celebration of Grace’s life was held at the Waipawa Municipal Theatre, Kenilworth St on Friday, October 12.
Gracie Thompson with her beloved pony Bella.