Cancer is a journey Ross and Mavis Andrew know all too well.
Now they are preparing to give back to those who supported them over the years by taking part in the South Canterbury Relay For Life in Geraldine on Saturday.
The Waimate couple have been each other’s carers after both were diagnosed with cancer – Mrs Andrew three times and Mr Andrew once.
Mrs Andrew was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1995, followed by breast cancer and later bowel cancer.
“I freaked at the third time,” she said.
She conquered all three only for Mr Andrew to be diagnosed at Christmas 2015 with a cancerous tumour growing on the side of his face.
He puts his diagnosis down to his farming days, when wide-brimmed hats were not fashionable and sunscreen was rarely heard of.
Instead, Mr Andrew would cover himself in sour cream after a hard day’s work.
“It would take the heat out of the sunburn,” he said.
“This is where the Cancer Society needs full marks for promoting [sun-smart measures] and people need to listen.”
Following his cancer diagnosis, Mr Andrew received radium, which he was told could leave him with a sore mouth and a possibility he might not be able to eat.
It was during his treatment that the couple discovered what Mr Andrew describes as a secret medicine – manuka honey.
Mr Andrew had two teaspoons of the honey every day and suffered very little, if any, of the symptoms he was told to prepare for.
Both also spoke highly of their specialist care and the services they received from Daffodil House, Daffodil Lodge, South Canterbury Cancer Society, surgeons, nurses and everyone between.
Mrs Andrew was also proud to be one of the first patients to benefit from a courtesy van service, designed to transport people from their Christchurch accommodation to cancer care appointments.
They agreed a positive attitude and the ongoing support of the medical profession and support networks had got them through a long and tough journey.