Eye lost, but not spirit
Peter Kroon envisaged a rough road ahead after a cancerous tumour left him without his right eye and part of his skull.
The Titirangi resident went through six weeks of radiation and had to quit his job as a roof tiler but it hasn't affected his sense of adventure.
Kroon is now focused on a 2000-odd kilometre walk from Cape Reinga to Bluff to turn his bumpy road into a positive journey.
"It's not going to be easy but it's amazing I'm still sitting here," he says.
The Walk for Freedom is Kroon's initiative to raise money for cancer research and the 50-year-old will start walking the length of the country on October 1.
Half the money raised will be donated to Cancer Society Auckland, while the other half will be used to cover some of Kroon's financial losses since he hasn't been able to work.
"It's my way of giving back. I'm looking for an adventure but it will be great if I can raise funds as well."
Kroon went to his doctor in April after suffering headaches and was referred to Auckland Hospital for cancer investigations after a pea-sized cyst was detected.
He was operated on seven months later and by December the tumour had grown to the size of a softball.
Squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, had spread into his skull.
"The surgeon said, ‘it's worse than we had hoped and you're going to lose your eye'," Kroon recalls.
"I've since been in a state of turmoil."
Kroon's tumour left him without feeling in the side of his face and no sense of smell in his right nostril.
A skin graft was taken from his stomach to cover his eye while bone from his thigh was inserted into the side of his face. He'll undergo more surgery next year where a titanium plate will be inserted into his head but in the meantime he's focusing on the walk.
Kroon hopes others with a spirit of adventure will join him for part of the journey. He aims to be back in West Auckland for Christmas before hitting the road again.
Cancer Society Auckland's Penny White says Kroon is "showing huge strength of character".
"His main goal is to raise awareness of the impact cancer has on people's lives.
"This is in line with our vision which is to reduce the incidence of cancer for future generations," she says.
Go to givealittle.co.nz or facebook.com and search "Help Peter Walk for Freedom" to donate.