Totara stands tall
Mother-of-five Arn Marino isn't taking anything for granted.
"I make every day a good one but this Christmas will be a special one," the 47-year-old says.
The Botany Downs resident is terminally ill with lung disease and an oxygen bottle follows everywhere she goes.
Mrs Marino stays at Totara Hospice South Auckland for time out and to be herself. There she is surrounded by fulltime palliative care staff and other people like her.
"We're all on our journey but when you meet other people going through it they understand.
"I take up to 20 pills each day but I'm not on the hard stuff yet. And we can laugh about it here."
She's not being gloomy; she's just matter of fact, she says. She knows what she wants and despite her condition, her family supports her decision to go to the hospice.
"When I first came to hospice my sister came to drag me out saying ‘we've got a big family, we can look after you'.
"So I sat her out on the veranda and said ‘this is not a place to be frightened of, I want to be here'.
"When I'm here I just love relaxing. I always think I can hear people singing but that's just me."
There will definitely be singing this week when the hospice celebrates 30 years in South Auckland.
Mrs Marino and her whanau will join hundreds of others for a night to remember with hospice ambassador and iconic Kiwi entertainer Tina Cross.
The Otara-born singer will perform under the stars at the Totara House Gardens with special guest Rikki Morris - and shine a light on a cause close to her heart.
"I'm thoroughly in awe of the work they do and it's given me an appreciation of how to treat people who don't have many choices left."
Hospice was her charity of choice during her Dancing with the Stars days and she visited hospices across the country.
Around the same time hospice was "instrumental" in caring for a close family friend who was struck by terminal illness.
Totara Hospice needs to raise more than $3 million to continue providing free care, chief executive Alan Beal says.
An Evening With Tina is on from 5pm on Saturday, December 15, at Totara House Gardens, 140 Charles Prevost Dr. Tickets cost $50 and are available online here.
WIN TICKETS: If An Evening With Tina sounds like your cup of tea, you could be on your way. The Manukau Courier and Totara Hospice South Auckland have five family passes – two adults, two children – to give away to readers. To enter the draw to win email your name, address and a daytime phone number to email@example.com by noon on Friday. Remember to put Totara Hospice in the subject line. One entry per person please.