Nelson man Craig Gray has died after living with a rare blood cancer for five years.
The Stoke resident was forced to source life-extending drugs from Bangladesh, at a cost of $1100 a month.
His friend Paul Hampton said Craig was a “wonderful guy”.
“Right from when he was diagnosed, he took it all in his stride and never said ‘why me’.”
It all started in July 2015 when he was working 60 hours a week as the head chef of a local café.
Then he separated from his wife and then was made redundant.
He thought it was just stress – but Craig found himself forgetting things. He ran red lights. He would say the same thing over and over. He eventually went to the doctor with what he thought was a chest infection.
When his blood tests finally came back the results were not good. He had stage four mantle cell lymphoma.
Craig was admitted to Nelson Tasman Hospice the Thursday before last and died last Tuesday. He was 47.
Paul says even in his final hours Craig was still cracking jokes.
“He was really mindful of everyone else and how they were going. He just carried himself so well.”
When the Nelson Weekly first reported on Craig last November, he spoke of the financial stress of having to take a drug that Pharmac did not fund.
However, he was at peace with his terminal diagnosis. He would find himself watching birds outside his window or shedding a tear watching a young family laugh at the beach.
“That is what it’s about. It’s not the merry-go-round of life we should care about. We forget about the little things.”
That story started a wave of media coverage which resulted in charity raffles and his Givealittle page getting swamped with donations.
“From Craig’s point of view, we just wanted to thank everyone who supported – those that knew him and those that didn’t. The family is so genuinely appreciative of all the support.”
Paul also says Craig was appreciative of being at the Nelson Tasman Hospice.
“If you are in that situation it’s such a beautiful environment.”
A memorial service was held on Sunday at Gardens of the World.
Paul says while Craig was content there was a sadness at leaving his two boys, Beau and Reid, behind.
“They are pretty shell-shocked.”
Craig wanted people to know that the Government might not always be there to help. But he was also happy.
“I have two beautiful children,” he told the Nelson Weekly in November.
“I’ve cooked for two prime ministers. I’ve had some good times and bad times. I’ve made people laugh and cry. Hopefully laugh more than cry. But, yeah, I think I’ve done good.”