Cancer battler launches store

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014
Tanja Gretza
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
LUCKY TOUCH: Tanja Grzeta has opened a new vintage clothing store in Lyttelton, named after the lucky red boots she wore throughout her treatment for cervical cancer.

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A Diamond Harbour resident has battled through cancer-related surgery and, still wearing her "kick-ass red boots", launched a business in Lyttelton.

Tanja Grzeta was one of two co-directors at Unlimited School, which this year merges with Discovery 1.

In 2012, aged 41, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She started radiation and chemotherapy treatment, but a follow-up appointment found the tumour had spread into her bladder and bowel. Surgery was booked, without which Grzeta was told she could expect to live 2 years.

Grzeta approached the news head-on. She decided to take her husband, Wayne, and their two daughters on a trip home to Germany to see her mother, in case "anything goes wrong". A fundraiser via donation website Give A Little raised more than $14,000 for the trip.

On returning to New Zealand, Grzeta underwent surgery that included removing her bladder and parts of her bowel.

The surgery left her exhausted and ill. She had some 15 to 20 hospital stays. She slept during the day while her daughters, aged 8 and 12, were at school, but could still only sit up with them for a brief time when they got home.

Unable to work fulltime at Unlimited, and with the announcement that the school would merge with Discovery 1, she developed the idea of opening a clothing store, which came to fruition last week with the opening of Red Boots in Lyttelton's London St.

Set in a 2.4 by 3.6 metre port-a-cabin, Grzeta spent the first few days of business welcoming people to the "world's smallest second-hand clothing store".

The store name, Red Boots, is a nod to the red, lace-up Doc Martins Grzeta wore for MRI scans, doctor visits and treatment.

With the store a quick ferry ride across the harbour, it offers a new lifestyle that Grzeta is already enjoying.

Opening only three days a week means she is able to spend more time with her family and can "slow down", something that was near impossible when she was working 70 hours a week at Unlimited.

To get the store going, Grzeta put a call out to her friends asking for clothes she could sell on their behalf, but most people just donated items to sell with the instruction that she "have fun with it".

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