High achieving teen gets a helping hand in cancer battle
Te Amohaere Rudolph lives a full-on life.
The Kaitaia 16-year-old hits the gym, plays netball, rugby and squash. She does surf lifesaving, St John, speech competitions and kapa haka. She's the student representative of her college and the youngest member of the student council. And all that's on top of NCEA Level One.
"She's really self-driven, and has been from a very young age," says mum Annie.
But since December 2014, Te Amohaere has had to wind things down; she has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called hepatoblastoma.
Her first brush with the disease came when she was 3, but she beat it after extensive treatment. Twelve years after she recovered, against all the odds, the cancer came back.
At first she tried to keep up her old activity levels, but she says it "became more unrealistic to do that while I was getting treatment".
"When I first started on it, my frame of mind was like, 'OK, here we go again, it's going to be fine', that sort of thing. It wasn't until I started the whole treatment that I realised how hard it was."
For someone who loves being involved, slowing down has been tough on Te Amohaere. She recently got told off by her doctor for playing tackle rugby.
"There would be days where I would be so down, I wouldn't talk, and I'd just gaze off out the window," she says.
But the support of people and organisations around her has kept her "trotting through".
"I sort of felt obligated not to give up because ... after everything they put into me I didn't want to let them down."
Part of that vital support came through the children's charity Variety's Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme.
The programme assigns sponsors to Kiwi kids who need extra help.
Te Amohaere's sponsor is Francesca, an expat Kiwi living in Perth. They correspond through letters, sometimes in Te Reo Maori. When Francesca heard about Te Amohaere's illness she sent over a winter coat, as well as extra money to help with food and petrol vouchers - and that is on top of her ongoing monthly donation. The family's regular trips to Auckland for Te Amohaere's chemotherapy can cost $200 in petrol.
The family could have handled the extra costs, but mum Annie left her job when Te Amohaere's diagnosis came through, leaving only her dad to support them.
"You kind of have that pride thing, you think, 'Oh no, we're fine'," Annie says.
But she accepted the charity's help, and says it has been a "Godsend".
Te Amohaere says her favourite thing about the sponsorship is knowing there is someone out there who cares. She says it would "awesome" to meet Francesca in the future.
Variety chief executive Lorraine Taylor says the relationships between the kids and their sponsors is one of the things that makes the sponsorship programme special.
"Just seeing the difference it can make to a child and their family, to know that someone else cares about them, is incredibly powerful."
The programme has connected nearly 2000 children with sponsors since it began in 2013 - but it currently more than 50 children waiting for a sponsor. Variety makes sure the money is spent on things the children need by dealing directly with suppliers.
Te Amohaere's sponsorship has helped her stay positive in spite of the difficulties she faces.
"It's tough, but you know, I'm up for the challenge," she says.
That is typical Te Amohaere, according to her mother. "She's a fighter. She just keeps on keeping on."
Find out more about the Variety's Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme here.
- Sunday Star Times