Survivors were celebrated, lost ones remembered and sufferers supported, during the eighth edition of the Nelson Relay for Life on Saturday.
It was a cavalcade of colour as young and old got together in a united front to raise spirits and funds to combat the indiscriminate disease.
Nelson Cancer Society senior manager Michelle Hunt says about 750 people in 65 teams registered for the 12-hour event, the first-ever held at Trafalgar Park, including a record 15 school teams.
She says the day was about the community coming together and showing their support to the many people in the community living with cancer.
One in three New Zealanders are directly affected by the disease.
“It’s unfortunately not going away and events like today enable the cancer society to continue to support people with all forms of cancer.”
The Nelson Relay for Life has so far raised $68,364 for the Cancer Society.
The top fundraiser to date is Nelson woman Lizl Matthewson with $3994.
The team leader of Wonderwomen, who had collectively raised $6878, is a breast cancer survivor.
In January 2017, Lizl discovered a lump on her right breast after her daughter stopped feeding from it.
“I thought it was just a blocked milk duct,” Lizl says.
The mother of two went to the doctor, received a mammogram, a biopsy, and then saw an oncologist.
“It’s always a waiting game with cancer, it always feels like you’re waiting – for the next appointment or the next set of results.”
Two weeks after her first appointment, she was diagnosed with a high grade ductal carcinoma in situ, a non-invasive breast cancer contained in the milk ducts.
Lizl says she is not one to show her emotions but couldn’t help but cry.
“I was in total disbelief, it’s like time stops for a bit.”
She says she tried to keep everything as normal as possible for her two children Jared (4) and Elzette (2).
“I didn’t want them to see me upset.”
After initially lying to them so they could enjoy their holiday, Lizl told her parents Henriette and Dirk.
“Dad told me something that resonated with me throughout my journey, ‘you don’t make a battle plan to lose’.”
Lizl lived that mantra and put on a brave face, determined to beat the cancer.
“I became a bit of a recorded message. Often I would fake it but when I was having a really dark day I would call my mum, she was my rock.”
She was faced with the option of travelling to Christchurch for radiation and spending time away from her young family or undergoing a full mastectomy.
“My greatest guarantee of getting rid of it and not spending time away from my family was to get a mastectomy.”
Before her mastectomy Lizl’s friends threw her a ‘bye bye boobie party.’
“We danced, we had drinks, it was so much fun that they are all now asking when is the ‘hello booby party?’”
After telling her children ‘mummy has got a sick booby and the doctors are going to take it away to make me better,’ Lizl underwent her mastectomy and is today cancer-free.
“It’s been challenging but at the same time the most important thing is that I am still here for my children.”
Lizl will begin breast reconstruction process this week, a seven-month process. Once she has fully recovered Lizl wants to get back into teaching.
She has joined the Bosom Buddies breast cancer support group with other local women who share their experiences.
“There is a lot that the cancer society offer that people don’t know about.”
She says the Relay for Life fundraising effort has been an amazing distraction.
“I’m so grateful to be here. I feel very blessed and the way the community turned out was amazing. We have to beat this together.”