Cancer support 'the best job in the world'
In 1988, Fiona Pearson became the fourth member of staff at the Cancer Society and the first to have a role in supportive care.
She expected to be there for a couple of years. Now, after 25 years in ''the best job in the world'', she is finally moving on.
She recalls that before she started, only ad hoc groups of volunteers filled the gap of support for people living with cancer.
''It was true community in action, people seeing others in need and pulling together, but nothing was coordinated, there were no standards or protocols.''
She is now deputy chief executive, and ended up being a key force in big developments such as the national 0800 Cancer information helpline, the Can Talk magazine and Matatuhi Arahi - the Cancer Society Service Plan for Maori.
Pearson says of her role at the Cancer Society: ''It's been a stunning job, you don't know how lucky you are to get up every day and think, ''Gosh, it's good to go to work'.''
She says there are three main reasons for this - the touching generosity of the volunteers she works with, the staff, and working with the cancer public: ''People who are going through really difficult circumstances and who allow you to walk alongside.''
The growing awareness of cancer, once a taboo subject, is helpful for patients and their journey, she says.
''My grandmother was of the generation where she believed that if you said the word you would attract the disease yourself, and she'd call it 'The Big C'.
''It was only spoken about in hushed tones so I think it's come out of the closet in the sense that people are able to talk about it and are more informed.
''I don't hear people referring to cancer as a life-threatening illness any more. It's a very exciting time in the area of scientific research regarding cancer, there are so many new discoveries''
Pearson is looking forward to the next stage in her life, a period of ''re-focus''.
''I don't know what I'm going to focus on first, but I want to join a choir and start singing again, I want to exercise every day, there's going to be reading, a lot of travel.
''I'm sure I will be a volunteer, I want to spend more time loving my husband and tending my garden, cooking up feasts and having some space.
''I'm looking forward to having time to reflect and go forward. I'm ready, and the organisation is ready too.''
The Dominion Post