Mike's life changed in a blink of an eye

Mike had just completed his pilot training and was about to jet off to Hawaii to start work when a brain tumour put everything on hold.

“I was living the dream. I was 20, living in Queenstown, flying, and snowboarding, when I started to get migraines. I paid a few visits to the doctor, but together we decided they were probably stress-related due to my upcoming move and the large amount of study I was doing in order to convert my NZ pilot license to an American one.”

The day before the big move, Mike was suffering from another excruciating migraine.

“I was at my parents in Greymouth so tried not to make too much of a fuss, but Mum knew something wasn’t right. Mum wanted to take me to the hospital, but I was worried if I went, I would risk losing my pilot medical. I‘m incredibly glad Mum talked me into going though, because very soon after I arrived I started to deteriorate rapidly. I was rushed through to have scans that showed that there was a large tumour in my right frontal lobe pushing on my brain.”

Instead of heading to America to start his new job as a pilot, Mike had to go to Christchurch for immediate treatment.

“As Greymouth Hospital isn’t set up for something like brain surgery, I was transferred by air ambulance to Christchurch Hospital. Once arriving there I was put on steroidal medication to help decrease the swelling in my brain to make me safer to be operated on. The medication worked well and a couple of days later I had the tumour successfully removed.

“A month later and my recovery was going great – my muscles and coordination had started to come back much faster than anticipated and, at the time, I really thought I’d managed to get off pretty scot-free.”

Unfortunately, not long after Mike had surgery to have the brain tumour removed, the tumour was identified as cancer. And this came only a few years after his Mum faced her own cancer diagnosis.

“I was first introduced to Canteen at the start of 2016 when I started my treatment in Christchurch Hospital. As I’m not from Christchurch, I didn’t have anyone other than Mum to get out with or do things with during the day after my treatment. This is where Canteen was great. They would often come visit me and take me out for coffees or walks and give me the support and company I needed. It was these small but nice things that I think really make such a nice difference when in situations like that.

“Once I arrived back from Germany later in the year, I got back in contact with Canteen. I started attending events, local activities and camps which were always full of fun and gave me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people that’ve also had their lives affected by cancer.

“Without the support of Canteen, I have no doubt that my month of treatment in Christchurch would’ve been a lot lonelier and mentally tougher to go through. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to meet the incredible people I have or attend courses on dealing with cancer and becoming a better support person and leader. Ultimately, I don’t think I’d have had the opportunity to grow into the person I am proud of being today.”

Now 26 years old, Mike has already faced so much in his young life. And he has faced it with bravery and resilience. Today, he’s on Canteen’s Board of Directors and in his second year of a five-year aircraft engineering apprenticeship. Mike is an extremely dedicated and passionate leader who continues to rise to the challenge of cancer advocacy in New Zealand.

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mike wearing a black jacket and smiling at the camera