My JOY Bucket List
- Whale watching
- Visiting the Milford Sound in New Zealand
- Yoga teacher training
- Watching the aurora from Lake Tekapo
- Doing a writing retreat
- Doing a photography course
- Planning a Summer holiday
- Writing a book
Life often gives us rock and roll. It could be a cancer diagnosis or it could be earthquakes. This week, many in New Zealand have been to hell and back. First, was a giant 7.8 two-minute earthquake just after midnight on Monday morning.
I woke just before the quake and jumped to the floor by my bed. On my hands and knees, I held on the floor as my house lurched around me. It felt like the house would come down and my fight or flight responses went into overdrive.
My electricity went out and as I sat on the couch in the dark with my laptop, portable Wi-Fi and cell phone, I had to decide what to do next. After-shocks followed and I went out and met some of my neighbours, all in pyjamas and slippers. We all bonded together and knew we were a community. I definitely was rattled.
I decided to go back to bed and try and sleep. Shortly after, my friend rang me. Petone, my suburb, was being evacuated due to tsunami risk. One of the benefits of living close to the beach is also a detriment in beach laden New Zealand. Almost all of us live on or close to fault lines or in tsunami zones.
I knew I needed to leave but wasn’t sure where to go. My neighbour said up the valley and when I drove 10 minutes away, I stopped and texted my sister and sister in law. Go to my sister in law, Nicky’s, was the answer and off I drove to a hot drink and comfortable bed. There I patted a lovely dog and got into bed with a hot wheat bag. I was freezing after all the shocks and panic.
At 7am I woke to find that unfortunately there had been two deaths due to the quakes and the large earthquake had been focused at the top of the South Island near Kaikoura. As well as feeling for the affected communities, we were all full of shock and lack of sleep.
Now the practical decisions had to be made. It was a work day and what was I meant to do? Now that it was daylight, I needed to see what damage had been done to my house. And thirdly, I was meant to do a speech to a local Rotary group that evening. I needed to find out if it was on and what I would do.
Most of all, I was so tired and just wanted to go home and sleep. When I got home, nothing was damaged. Miraculously things had fallen over but nothing was broken.
I found that my electricity was out and was so for 12 hours. I had no snack food in my house (it all required cooking), I was cold and I didn’t even have a radio. I went to the local supermarket and bought some food and water. We couldn’t drink the tap water due to the quake.
I waited for the power to come on and read that no one from Wellington should go into the city for work. I went to sleep and on waking realised, that I was too exhausted to do a speech so sent my apologies to the Rotary group.
On the Tuesday, on returning to work, we couldn’t go into our work place as it was damaged. We are in the process of moving to a new building so we went to work at the new building. However I hadn’t had a chance to pack before we moved buildings. In addition, we are going through a restructure and this week, my group manager left and we have new teams. We also have moved to hot desking with lockers and no personal desks.
That same day, Wellington experienced a storm and my suburb Petone flooded. I managed to get home in time before the trains and buses stopped due to flooding and aftershocks. It was just one thing after another.
We then had another storm on Wednesday/Thursday which had locals saying “we are waiting for locusts”. What more could happen? Of course, I didn’t have enough safety gear. On Wednesday, I headed out and bought a portable gas stove, more torches, battery packs for my cell phone and a radio. I am set if further quakes occur.
Despite being on my own during all the quakes and flooding, I did okay. I felt vulnerable at times having to make decisions on my own, often in the dark. I did get quite a few texts and calls which really helped.
I surprised myself too. All I wanted was to get back into the office and get back to normal. It reminded me of my cancer diagnoses as I wanted to get back into the office and create normality. I love working in an office and it feels quite safe and secure for me. When life outside work is shattered, I liked sitting at my desk.
There were over 2000 aftershocks in the 48 hours after the big earthquake. After going through a week of quakes, evacuation, flooding, storms, moving buildings/restructure at work, and more, routine and normal are very important.
These are the things that gave me safety, peace and warmth in the upheaval.
Wishing everyone peace on their journey.
I had one of the best experiences this week, ever! I was invited to talk about my book on TVNZ’s Breakfast on Thursday. I got myself organised and flew up to Auckland for the 6.40am interview.
TVNZ is so incredible. They’ve just had renovations and the building looked futuristic and fabulous at the same time. Once there, I was met by Carla who helped me get the interview. Then went down to hair and make up. I was transformed into TV-ready and then walked into the studio.
I met Hilary and Jack and was seated next to Hilary Barry who was to interview me. The studio was quite quiet as there were lots of things going on – news, weather, camera men and they were talking remotely to Brody, another reporter.
Hilary talked to me quietly and was so kind and reassuring. She asked me a few questions and then we were ready to start. I was struck by her pretty she was and our outfits matched. Phew.
The interview went for around 4 minutes and was over in a flash. It was all such a lovely and interesting experience. I felt really happy and was super-happy that I wasn’t really nervous. Here is the video.
Then I went off to have coffee with Carla at the TVNZ cafe. A muffin with my friend Italia, and then met a friend Pat. I gave Pat 20 gift wrapped books to be donated to Auckland Hospital. Then back to the airport.
It really was such a wonderful day and will be remembered for some time. Most importantly, I hope there were a few people doing chemo watching, who might have been helped by a few things I said.
Thanks to TVNZ, Hilary and Carla for making this happen.
I’ve always wanted to go to Fiordland. Even though it’s in New Zealand, it seems like a long way away and a big journey. So when a friend from Canada arrived in New Zealand, off we went.
There are no words to describe Fiordland so I’ll let my photos speak. However, I will say that it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And I had one of life’s perfect days in Milford Sound. New Zealand is truly a slice of paradise. I also did a night sky tour at Lake Tekapo and here are a few images and a video mvi_5612.
What I’ve learned about travel is that you gain join from the planning, experiencing and the remembering. Travel is such a great way to remember that life is amazing and full of beauty and wonder.
Where are the other slices of paradise in the world? For me, they are:
– Assisi and Venice, Italy
– Rio and Salvador, Brazil
– Paris, France
In August, I held my first ever book launch at Parliament.
It was a terribly emotional and moving experience.. and packed full of joy.
The planning was fun. I was invited to hold the launch at New Zealand Parliament Buildings. The room we were offered was so cool and quirky. It had character and I loved it.
I had a lovely Joy team helping to organise the event:
Friends, family and colleagues turned up. It was moving, like my 21st birthday or a wedding party. It was my night. My friend Philippa flew up from Christchurch and friends Italia, Mere and Sara flew down from Auckland.
Maureen introduced me and then MP Annette King spoke. Annette had read my book and summarised the book so well. As she spoke, I began to cry as I realised her words were true. I had overcome a lot, I had overcome cancer and I had finished this book which is helping people who need it.
Then I spoke. My main theme was acknowledging the people in the room and acknowledging their help in that it takes a village to get through cancer and it takes a village to get my book done. The book writing and publishing has been so much work. Honestly, publishing a book has almost nothing to do with writing a book. But it is done and I feel really great about the book.
It was so moving and so joyful. It was a perfect night and here are a few images and here are the speeches.
Lots of love xo Andrea
Today was incredible. Me, my Mum Joy and Emma, took in 20 books to gift to chemo patients at the Wellington Hospital Blood and Cancer Centre.
It is hard to explain but I will try.
Firstly, Joy had wrapped up all the books as presents in clear cellophane with blue and silver ribbons. All had a small camellia flower attached. And all had a personal message handwritten on the inside of the book.
I’d contacted the Nurse Manager at the hospital and organised to meet the manager Paul at reception.
So at 11.30am, we gathered at the hospital and got the books ready for gifting.
First, I met my former oncologist Dr Kate Gregory and my former nurse Kirsty. It is fantastic to see them!
While we are there, a man in the waiting room picks up a book and starts reading it. I turn around and he says “can I have this?” And I said “yes”. I tell him a bit of my story, about how I went through chemo twice and wrote this book to share my lessons learned. He is really happy. He introduces me to his wife who is the chemo patient and then asks me to write a personal inscription on the inside of the book. It was lovely.
They both lit up when they see the book and hear my story. I’m also happy that the book is appealing to men as well as women.
Then we head into the chemo ward itself and on the right, eight people are sitting on lazy boys having chemo. I gradually go around all of them and gift the books. It is absolutely amazing as each person is different, and each story is different. Yet when they hear my story, that I survived my second cancer, they smile and I know they feel hope for themselves. It is tremendous to see as I see sparks of hope happening for them and their spines grow a bit taller.
Most people survive cancer these days I say. Most cancer is survivable. The road might be long but there is light at the end of the tunnel for most of us.
A Ministry of Health report on cancer patients between 1994 and 2011 shows survival rates after diagnosis have increased. The one-year survival rate, after patients were first told they had cancer, rose from 74.9 per cent in 1998-99 to 78.0 per cent in 2010-11.
Person after person I meet looks happier after I talk to them.
One man said “this is exactly what I needed. No one tells you anything about chemo. You have to figure it out as you go”.
Another man looks really happy when I say that I survived my second cancer as his wife is going through her second cancer. Oh yes, I just got my five-year clearance I said.
I felt like I was a hope merchant, a joy germ. It was incredible.
Then out in the waiting room, I meet six more people about to have chemo. All are grateful for the books and look very happy.
This is a gift I say. People have sponsored books to be gifted to the chemo ward.
And finally I meet Raymond and his partner Sue. They are delightful and love my book. They are waiting to go in for his second chemo cycle, for his second cancer. He is a lovely man and they are so happy. They ask me to sign the book for them and want to take a photo with me. He gives me his business card and I’ll drop him a line.
It was one of the best days of my life. It is what the books were all about – helping those in the chemo ward, those who are actually going through cancer treatment – giving them tips, joy, inspiration and hope – and making their journey a little easier.
I’m hoping to get back there soon. I think my role just became, hope bringer.