Can­cer pa­tient’s plea: ‘Get seen, get checked’

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Peter de Graaf

Don’t be whakama¯ (shy) — see a doc­tor and get your­self checked if you think some­thing’s not right.

That’s the mes­sage from a North­land fam­ily af­ter Whitinga Har­ris was di­ag­nosed with stage 4 colon can­cer.

Har­ris, from O¯ taua, near Kaikohe, was just 31 when he was di­ag­nosed late last year dur­ing his fi­nal weeks of a three-year teach­ing de­gree.

By the time the can­cer was found it had spread to his stom­ach, re­quir­ing a ma­jor op­er­a­tion to re­move a 2kg tu­mour, and now it has reached his liver.

Chemo­ther­apy is ex­pected to keep the can­cer at bay for about an­other seven months, but af­ter that his out­look is bleak. Spe­cial­ists say his best chance of more time with his sons, aged nine and 12, is the un­funded drug Keytruda.

His fam­ily is now fran­ti­cally try­ing to raise the $100,000 re­quired. A Givealit­tle cam­paign has now raised more than $28,000. Last Thurs­day, when the North­ern Ad­vo­cate ran an ear­lier story about Har­ris’ plight, the to­tal stood at $18,000.

What­ever hap­pens, Har­ris and his wha¯ nau hope they will be able to help oth­ers by en­cour­ag­ing them to seek med­i­cal help early.

”We hope to spread aware­ness of bowel and colon can­cer, among young peo­ple es­pe­cially. A lot of them are go­ing un­der the radar,” he said.

Har­ris had al­ways kept good health so when he was di­ag­nosed he hadn’t seen a doc­tor for about 10 years and didn’t even have a GP. He never dreamt he’d get can­cer at the age of 31.

Fam­ily spokes­woman Ruby Grace said it was im­por­tant to see a doc­tor if some­thing wasn’t right.

“Peo­ple can be whakama¯ (shy) be­cause the symp­toms of colon can­cer can be a bit em­bar­rass­ing. They don’t want to see a doc­tor and say, ‘I’ve had di­ar­rhoea for a year’, they just man­age it. Our mes­sage is: Get seen, get checked.”

Since his di­ag­no­sis Har­ris said his fam­ily had learnt a great deal about can­cer and can­cer treat­ments, and wanted to share that knowl­edge with oth­ers go­ing though sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences.

”We want to keep the ball rolling, even if I do pass on. It’s not just us, there’s lots of peo­ple suf­fer­ing, and I feel sorry for them.”

Go to givealit­­grad­u­a­tion-to-hos­pi­tal-gown if you want to do­nate.

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