Mum provides inspiration a year on

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012
Natalie Murphy
PHIL DOYLE/ Fairfax NZ
LOVING MUM: Natalie Murphy with son Jackson before her death in December last year.
Greg Murphy
GRAHAME COX/ Fairfax NZ
FAMILY UNIT: Greg Murphy and three-and-a-half-year-old Jackson.

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One year on from the death of an Auckland mother who fought a courageous and public battle against cancer, her husband and son will celebrate her life and their achievements since her death.

Natalie Murphy was told she had breast cancer in December 2009 - the day before she gave birth to son Jackson.

But what might have been a private battle became public last year when the 33-year-old was told she had just weeks to live. Instead of withdrawing, Natalie spoke out about her struggles through social media in an attempt to fund her own funeral and ensure her young son's future would be taken care of. 

Natalie and husband Greg had planned to renew their vows on their 10th wedding anniversary in March this year, but then brought forward the date to New Year's Day.

Sadly, Natalie never made it, passing away at home on December 19 last year.

Today Greg and Jackson will remember Natalie at a private ceremony in Albany where some of her ashes were buried. 

''We knew Nat was dying a couple years before she died, so what that meant for me, as a partner, was that there was always a part of me that was able to process the grief for that long,'' Greg said. 

''So going through it all and watching her story, especially right at the end, I came to the conclusion that the best way I can grieve is to make her proud of me and Jackson and by living, so I kicked into gear quite quickly with that.''

Greg said he has grappled with grief following his wife's death, but his faith saw him through the tough times.

''After the funeral there were times when you cried, but I talk to her most days because I'm a man of faith and I don't think she just went that day,'' he said. 

And he's since used the experience to lend support to others, helping about a dozen people who have lost their partners and ''just want people to talk to''.

Jackson, now three-and-a-half, still asks for his mum - not quite comprehending what has happened. 

''If he asks for Nat, we say mum's in heaven looking down on him and he's never really been sad about it,'' Greg said. 

''She's left him videos and if we're walking down the road he will pick a flower for mum.

''So when he engages in that stuff it's not from a sad place, he knows his mum is in heaven. It's probably one of the good sides of having him quite young.''

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The last year for Greg and Jackson has been tough, but Greg said they've tried to embrace life.

He took up a three-month work trip to San Francisco, something he would have previously been too nervous to accept.

''I thought this is a bit scary, being away from family so long. But then I thought this is what Nat would have wanted. This is living, this is being alive, this is scary. So I thought stuff it, I'm going to do it,'' he said.

''So Jackson and I lived up there, did heaps of cool things like went to Disneyland, drove down the coast in a Mustang [car], had a week over in Hawaii and went surfing.''

Thanks to Natalie's fundraising, a six figure sum was raised which covered her treatment, funeral costs and helped Greg and Jackson into a house. 

''It's lucky that I can service a big mortgage as well, but that house is in Nat's trust and will be destined for Jackson.''

Greg said his back-seat experience with cancer had given him the drive to set up an organisation helping those with the disease better understand their treatment options.

''Nat took it upon herself to try and research other treatments and when you're dying the last thing your wanting to do is learn 12-syllable words and figure out what works,'' he said. 

''What you'll see in the health profession is they [experts] all seem to contradict each other. They're all doctors, specialists in their field, but they don't seem to agree, and when you're dying that is heartbreaking because all you want is to give it your best shot and learn from people who should know.

''What I'm hoping to do, my goal, is to sell my business so I can put a lot of money into that - to try and hire doctors and researchers so that people don't have to go through what Nat did."

- Auckland Now

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