THE YEAR THAT

Tim McKin­nel

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - As told to Paul Lit­tle.

In the first half of 2008 I had started to be­come quite lazy — ap­par­ently. And af­ter some in­sis­tence from my wife, Me­gan, I went to the doc­tor and had blood tests. I didn’t think there was any­thing wrong; I was only 34. Then I got an un­ex­pected phone call and the doc­tor told me I had a high platelet count. So I had to see spe­cial­ists and have tests and was ul­ti­mately di­ag­nosed with es­sen­tial throm­bo­cy­to­sis, which is a rare blood cancer. It was a com­plete shock. In hind­sight, I had been strug­gling to get out bed and we know now why. I had in­cred­i­bly vis­cous blood and wasn’t func­tion­ing very well.

I spent a large part of the next few months re­search­ing the con­di­tion and what it meant to me and my fam­ily. I went through un­usual and un­com­fort­able med­i­cal pro­ce­dures like bone mar­row biop­sies and im­me­di­ately went on to some chemo­ther­apy drugs. Med­i­ca­tion low­ered the risk and ini­tially made me feel worse but even­tu­ally made me feel bet­ter.

We had de­cided to move to Hawke’s Bay be­cause it was an eas­ier place to have chil­dren grow up and I wanted to start my own busi­ness there. We had to de­cide whether to carry on with that plan and even­tu­ally de­cided we would.

You go through a weird psy­chol­ogy with that sort of thing, feel­ing your body is be­tray­ing you. But I knew I was bet­ter off than some peo­ple.

I re­searched the hell out of it and there was some risk of com­pli­ca­tions but for the next 10 to 15 years there should not be too many.

The month that fol­lowed the di­ag­no­sis and then the chemo was dif­fi­cult to the point where I was in sur­vival mode. I was just get­ting through day to day. I kept go­ing but was work­ing till 2 or 3 in the morn­ing to keep up and I was start­ing to ex­hibit phys­i­cal signs of ex­haus­tion.

The plan was to act as though noth­ing was wrong. We moved and started two busi­nesses — one was work­place drug test­ing and the other was Zavest, pri­vate in­ves­ti­gat­ing. We were also find­ing a new place to live and get­ting the kids sorted. And our son Liam wasn’t much of a sleeper, so it was a very stress­ful few months.

We had very lit­tle debt but no cap­i­tal, so that was a leap of faith and we were very grate­ful for some fam­ily sup­port that made it pos­si­ble.

With the di­ag­no­sis and move it was also time for re­flec­tion about the kind of work I was do­ing. Be­ing con­fronted with your mor­tal­ity makes you think a bit dif­fer­ently about what you want to do work­wise. And around that time I started look­ing at and read­ing about Teina Pora’s case and mis­car­riages of jus­tice, and that was the start of that in­volve­ment.

We have come back to Auckland now, which was al­ways the plan. But hav­ing done all that, it was ab­so­lutely worth it. We’re grate­ful now that we made the de­ci­sions we did. Hawke’s Bay was a great place to raise young chil­dren, and we made life­long friends.

I’m not sure that we’d have been so ad­ven­tur­ous had it not been for the di­ag­no­sis.

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