Prescription is to share a laugh

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 06:46 16/12/2013
Rob Hickey and Judy Napier
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ
Laughter the best medicine: Rob Hickey as the Christmas Fairy spreads holiday cheer to fellow cancer patients, including Judy Napier.

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Even after six weeks of radiotherapy, Rob Hickey feels fantastic - and hopes his Christmas Fairy will spread plenty of cheer through the oncology ward at Wellington Hospital.

The 50-year-old trainee chef and thespian baked sweet treats, and friends donated gifts to parcel out to fellow patients and staff throughout the hospital to mark his last day of treatment last week.

His handmade Christmas Fairy costume took almost two weeks to put together. "I've done a bit of drag before and it's always been a hell of a lot of fun," he said.

"I was feeling absolutely lousy and it was about 2 o'clock in the morning, and I thought: I have to do something to say thank you to all the staff."

Oncology buddy Judy Napier shrieked when she saw him. The pair shared many a joke during their time in hospital. "It's hilarious. I think he looks amazing," she said.

Mr Hickey hoped his gesture brought some seasonal cheer to the doctors and nurses at Wellington Hospital's oncology ward, whom he cannot praise highly enough. "I haven't met a bad one in the whole bunch - they're just marvellous."

He certainly got a grin out of oncology nurse Heather Brown. "It's just amazing how he's managed. It's great to see this - that it's possible to face cancer and still keep your morale up."

Finding himself unable to complete his chef's training in October, Mr Hickey took himself to the doctor and found out the worst.

"I just stopped listening basically. She was talking, I remember that, but all I could think was: my God, I've got cancer. Your life just sort of stops."

The doctor gave him a 70 per cent chance of survival and put him on a fierce treatment plan. He started with two weeks in hospital having chemotherapy, to sensitise the tumour, followed by daily radiotherapy for the next month.

"Chemo didn't knock me around too much, oddly enough, a bit of nausea. But radiation was really the terrible thing - your skin gets so burnt," Mr Hickey said.

He was determined to keep up his spirits and found making plans, even sketching out the Christmas Fairy outfit, kept him going.

After six weeks' rest, he will have tests to see how his tumour has reacted to the treatment, and will be assessed for further options, including surgery.

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