THE YEAR THAT
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.