“I grew up in west Auckland. I have three adult sons – two living in Perth and one in Taranaki.
“I had early breast cancer in 2006. Then following a double mastectomy in 2007 – all was hunky dory for the next 11 years.
“The day before Mother’s Day 2018, I was home alone dog-sitting Lala, when one of my lungs collapsed and I called an ambulance. Lala was all over me. I could see she was crying for me. Dogs know.
“I stayed that night in Hawera Hospital as they thought I had a blood clot in my lung. Then they sent me to Base Hospital in New Plymouth for further testing. I said it was cancer. I explained I had a history of cancer and I knew it was back. Eventually they confirmed I had secondary breast cancer in my lungs, spine, bones and ribs. This was the worst news that I could tell my mum on Mother’s Day.
“It truly sucked, especially as it was just three weeks after my husband died. I didn’t care about my diagnosis but thought – this is all pretty shitty.
“We’ve been trying different treatments and we change the treatment when things go belly-up. And things keep going belly up. I’ve had radiotherapy too. It works very well for bone pain.
“Even though I have had the odd cancer progression, I still try to keep positive and optimistic about living the best life that I can.
“I have always loved art. I grew up creative and artistic minded. I am currently a facilitator for art therapy in the small town of Patea. Every Tuesday, there’s an art class for those who might feel lonely or depressed. We provide a safe environment for people to be creative.
“It is very easy to become mesmerized by whatever artistic thing you’re doing.
”Our art session last week was a creative way for the community to celebrate the first star of Matariki.
“For me, the art therapy is not hard work. If it was then I wouldn’t be doing it. Instead, there is a huge amount of enjoyment. Satisfaction. Happiness. Joy.
“In July I will turn 60. It is a miracle that I am still here! And I am very grateful that I am. My wish for my birthday is to see my grandchildren in Perth. If Covid doesn’t allow for this, then I want to spend it with my mother who turns 80 next year. She is active, amazing and my inspiration!
“I live each day, one day at a time. Showing kindness wherever I go and whenever I can. It doesn’t take much – yet it helps to heal the world one person at a time through a smile.
“Life is short. Shorter than we thought – but that doesn’t mean we have to go fast. Take it easy. Make sure you know for sure what it is that you want to do. And do the best that you can at whatever it is you do.
“I am very grateful to Sweet Louise for its support. I have loved the opportunity to meet all these amazing people who inspire me.
“This has been an incredible journey. No regrets.
“I remind myself to read out loud the “Sweet Louise” mantra. And I have my own Mareta’s Mantra: Laugh a lot. Love and hug every day. Do your best.”