What would you do if you only had 100 days left? Kiwis answer

What would you do if you knew you only had 100 days to live? We ask a selection of New Zealanders to share their stories about what they would do, or how this topic impacts on them.

Amie Richardson with sons Oli, 6, and Jasper Biggs
Richard Davison

Amie Richardson with sons Oli, 6, and Jasper Biggs


What would you do if you knew you only had 100 days to live? A new book by Italian author and screenwriter Fausto Brizzi, One Hundred Days of Happiness, has sharpened the focus on this topic, as the character, Lucio Battistini, finds out he has inoperable cancer and chooses to spend the rest of his life the way he always should have - by making every moment count. 

Amie Richardson is a PR consultant in Dunedin. Her husband, Wayne Biggs, passed away two months ago of lymphoma. While terminally ill, Wayne rode 3200 kilometres around the South Island on his orange Vespa. His "Tiny Wheels For A Giant Cause" raised $15,000 for Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. "I wanted the ride to be about raising money for blood cancer research so that in the future someone like me might live longer," he said at the time. Diagnosed in February last year, he passed away on August 18 2015, leaving behind Amie, and two sons, Oli, 6, and Jasper, 3.

Jamie Curry, of Jamie's World.

Jamie Curry, of Jamie's World.

"People would always marvel about how positive Wayne was with cancer and would say things like 'I doubt I would be like that', or 'I just couldn't cope'. Wayne always said that no one really knows how they would cope until they face living with a terminal disease and that the idea of facing it, and the fear and sense of loss you feel thinking about dying, is worse than the reality. 

I want to think I will do it bravely and live my last days filled with love and life and my boys and family and friends. I want to think I will try to make a difference for those left behind but I believe that can come from small gestures as well as large. Wayne died knowing how loved he was, spending his final weeks with his parents, Rex and Marg, his sisters, brother and all our family and friends in Broad Bay. That was always my hope for him, to die still loving and being loved, and I hope I will leave this world the same way.  

When Wayne was first diagnosed, his tumours were growing and doubling in size each week. We were told he'd have 10 years. That seemed like a short time. But every time we went, we found out the chemo had failed and the salvage chemo had failed, and each time, the situation changed, and time with Wayne got shorter and shorter. But we never thought it wouldn't work.

Rest home worker Kristine Bartlett has learned to accept death through her work.
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/FAIRFAX NZ

Rest home worker Kristine Bartlett has learned to accept death through her work.

In December, we were told that Wayne had three to six months left. One of the things he had dreamed of doing was a big motor bike ride. He had bought his dream orange Vespa - orange was his favourite colour - but he hardly had a chance to ride it. He said, "I want to do a ride through four-wheel tracks and to do something fun". He wanted to do something that would leave a legacy, so he decided to ride for blood cancer research, to do something meaningful.

He got so much strength out of it - he raced against a Lamborghini at a race track and schools would turn out and have orange days and do fundraisers. He even made a film which he wanted to leave the boys, and in his last days, when he was dying, he was climbing up to the edit suite to make final touches to it. He was a proud person - he wanted to give back.

Sometimes when people die they get made into martyrs. He had his imperfections, believe you me. But he loved life and people and he found joy in everything. When he was discharged from hospital, those last five weeks were incredible weeks.We spent this incredible amount of time holding each other's hands and looking out to sea. He would say, "I love you. It's just so amazing to wake up with you here." We talked about the times we had, the holidays and the memories. Even though it was so sad and so hard, it was such a beautiful time. It was short, but I was so lucky to have had that, to be with my absolute soulmate, the love of my life.

Hairdresser Derek Elvy recently had surgery for liver cancer.
SUPPLIED>

Hairdresser Derek Elvy recently had surgery for liver cancer.

He always said, 'Life is the prize'."

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Jamie Curry commands a massive global audience with her You Tube channel, Jamie's World, which now has 1.4 million subscribers, and she also has 10 million Facebook likes. The Napier schoolgirl started out by posting videos from her bedroom in Napier in 2012. She has recently finished a tour in Australia, where she met 3500 fans. Now 19, she has published her first book, They Let Me Write a book, which she will sign in stores around Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from this weekend. She hopes to be an actor and is auditioning for roles.

"If I found out I had 100 days left to live, I'd never tell one lie - like I'd be totally honest to everyone. If someone said, 'do you like my new haircut?' but I didn't, I'd tell them the truth. I'd also spend all my money. I'm dying here! I should give it all to charity.

I would eat all the time because I wouldn't have to worry about my diet. I would eat melted cheese every single day. I'd probably die after 30 days from a sugar overdose.

I've got a bucket list towards the end of the book and I guess I'd do some of that. One of the things on that list is going to Italy, because I love spaghetti bolognese. My family could come too, and my friends. I'd travel to all the countries I want to go to, to meet the people I've met through my work.

I also want to skydive, but I always thought I'd do that when I'm older, when I've overcome my fear of heights.

I've never told a guy that I love him. I would probably go up to someone I'm attracted to and declare my love for him.

I'd also film my last 100 days, I'd film every day and post it on You Tube. On my last day, I'd post a film, saying "Bye guys".

Kristine Bartlett is an aged care worker and equal pay campaigner based in the Hutt Valley. Last year, the Court of Appeal upheld a ground-breaking employment decision in an equal pay case she took against her employer, TerraNova Homes and Care. She argued that her $14.46 hourly rate was less than would be paid to men for the same skills. 

"When I started out in this job 22 years ago, I used to come home and cry and feel sorry when someone passed away. But over time, I've realised that when they pass away at the end of their lives, they just want to go. They've had enough. They say things to me like, 'Kristine, you can live too long.' It's lovely to think about their children and grandchildren. You want them to be without pain, and you want to make sure their final days are filled with love and compassion.

I've got faith. I have joked when they say things like, 'When I go I'll miss you', and I'd say, 'Wait for me up there'. I always say God will take you when he's ready.

If I had 100 days to live, I'd spend it with my three children and six grandchildren and my friends. I'd want to be in my garden or in a garden environment as much as possible. I love the flowers in the Botanical Gardens so I would want to spend time there. I tell my stories to my children and grandchildren, so I would want to share more of those too in my final days.

At the end of my days, I would also look back and think, at least I did something with my days to benefit women. I hope other women will speak out too. It's good to do something constructive before I do go.

Some people do feel frightened about death, but my mother taught me that there's nothing to be afraid of. Death is a subject that needs to be talked about. We're all born to go."

Miranda Harcourt is an award-winning actress and acting coach, and the daughter of thespian Dame Kate Harcourt and the late Peter Harcourt. She is married to writer and film maker Stuart McKenzieand mother to actress Thomasin McKenzie, of Shortland Street fame. She coaches Hollywood stars, mainly by Skype, from her Melrose home.

"If I had 100 days to live, I would do exactly what I am currently doing. Presuming health wasn't an issue, and presuming money wasn't an object either. But I think what I would do differently is that I would try to do everything mindfully.

Stuart and I are about to take off to London for some meetings for our film, The Changeover, an adaption of a Margaret Mahy novel. I think I'd take the whole family rather than leaving them at home. If I found out I had 100 days to live, I would just get on and make the movie. I'd shoot it on my phone, right now.

I would travel with Stuart and the children to all the wonderful places I've loved. Stuart and I are getting fit in preparation for our trip. Every day, we got on a big walk up and down the zig zags near our house. I would want to walk some of the Great New Zealand Walks. I've walked two - the Tongariro Crossing and the Abel Tasman but I would want to do the other six. I am from New Zealand, and I would want to say goodbye to the people I love, and also to farewell my country.

A lifetime of ambitions would be squeezed into a short time frame. We lived in the United States for a while when Davida (now 8) was a baby, when I worked on The Lovely Bones. I'd want to go back to Philadelphia with them. I'd also want to take them to India, where I spent three months working on a movie, Lion, starring Nicole Kidman, earlier this year.

I'd write a lot of letters to my kids. I would write one for Thomasin's wedding day, one for Peter's graduation, and one for Davida's 16th birthday.

I always completely overcommit myself. I try to do so much in my life. But I would do everything bigger and more expensively and I would aim to be more mindful around everything. While you have family and you're working, it's really difficult to be mindful. Sometimes I spend five to six hours a day Skype coaching. I love that because the whole world melts away. It's really meditative.

I don't have any fear of death, or superstitions about death. Mum (Dame Kate) is 87 and she is comfortable about death. She'll often interrupt me about something and say, "Oh Miranda, play that song at my funeral". It's an event that's been planned. 

Derek Elvy is a Wellington hairdresser and co-director of Buoy Salon and Spa, which he jointly set up 28 years ago. During his career, he has been named Hairdresser of the Year seven times and is known for his avant garde hairdressing style. He had surgery for liver cancer in June this year.

In the last three years, I've had two health scares. The first was a seizure three years ago, when I woke up in A and E. They ran every check possible but couldn't find anything. Not long after, we were packing up the salon and I started feeling the same way. I spent five days over Easter on monitors and found out I had an aortic vascular blockage. I ended up with a pacemaker implant. The side effects of the grand mal seizure were slightly frightening. I'd randomly become disoriented and feel sick, and I'd need to sit down in the dark, or on cold concrete. My use of the pacemaker is now minimal. Then this year I was diagnosed with having a cancerous carcinoma on my liver, and I had a resection through laparoscopic surgery which took eight hours. I didn't have chemo but I took six weeks off. My liver will take six months to regenerate, and I'll be scanned next week. I

When I was thinking about what I would do if I found out that I only had 100 days to live, the first thing that came to mind was that I'm quite happy in my life and my skin.But I'd have no time to muck around. I'd need to learn to be more accepting of the generosity and love of family and friends. I can push people away because I am so fiercely independent. I'm the eldest child. I ran away from home at 16.

I'd take my mother to Europe. She's never been. She unselfishly gave her life to my father, who passed away in July and was in bad shape for 10 years. Mum has put her life on hold for Dad, and now she needs to fly and wants to. I think we are going to see a new woman rise from this - in fact, I know we are. She's 82.

The other thing I'd do is I've had hundreds of photographs taken of the hair creations I've created over the years, and I'd want to put those into an archive so people can access them. I have been approached by two families who have wanted to use them for funerals - one for a hairdresser, the other for a model. Most of them are fantastical images, they're art works, and I think that somewhere like the Alexander Turnbull Library could conserve them.

I like to share an atmosphere, that's what excites me - whether it's the salon, garden, food, music or silence. Gardening has been a passion of mine since I was a child. I'd take Mum to some of the fantastic gardens in Europe, some of the ones I haven't visited either.

I feel quite strongly about some things I'd not tolerate anymore if I found out I had just 100 days left to live. I would want to rid myself of the diplomacy of tolerating stressed people, because stress sticks like tar. Thankfully that's not the bulk of clients. But I wouldn't want to waste my time with other people's stress. People who live in the first person - I would have zero tolerance for them too. Also the tourists of self-advantage, or people who come into my life because they want stuff and then they go.

I would stop working too, although I would maintain my relationship with Buoy, because I am Buoy.

Death isn't a subject I think about a lot, but I'm comfortable with the dark side. I was out on the town in the 1980s, when Aids first became an issue. Two of my best friends were among the first Wellingtonians to die from Aids-related illnesses.  I lived through those kinds of experiences quite young. Drug overdoses, Aids and suicide took out a lot of young Wellington in those days, when hairdressers ruled the town.

I subscribe to euthanasia, very much so. I would want to choose my death if my condition was unmanageable. I have pride and I don't want to end up a hot mess and a burden to people. I would have worked my death through in my head anyway.

 - Stuff

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