Just days before long-time Marlborough resident Natalie Souness lost her battle with cancer, she was planning how she could better help those affected by earthquakes in Seddon and Christchurch.
Her death came as a shock to loved ones as they had just started to believe the mother-of-two had beaten a rare thyroid cancer.
Souness was the only person in New Zealand living with the condition - called sclerosing mucoepidermoid carcinoma with eosinophilia (SMECE).
However, her partner, Ashley Wilson, said test results released only hours after Souness' death showed a new tumour in her chest was likely to blame for a ruptured artery last Thursday morning.
He was relieved she had not heard the news before she died and that he was with her at home until the end.
She had returned to hospital for another CT scan the week before after getting weaker and the vomiting spells returned, he said.
"Her last stay in hospital was for two months and the radiation treatment appeared to have worked on the thyroid tumour. The scrapes came back clear - we were hopeful she had beat the cancer," Wilson said.
Souness was diagnosed with the rare condition late last year after having a lump in her neck examined in November.
She was the only person in New Zealand living with the condition, but did not let it dampen her spirit, Wilson said. "Just last week we were talking about what to do next to help more people in Seddon and Christchurch after the earthquakes. Her whole life was focused on helping others."
Souness had worked as an advocate for victims of the Christchurch earthquakes, educating them on their rights and how to deal with the Earthquake Commission and insurers.
Her funeral was held in Blenheim on Wednesday and he was grateful for all the kind words and messages the family received.
The family wanted to continue her fight to create awareness about the cancer and encourage more women to be checked.
"It is one of the rarest cancers in the world and specifically affects women, especially women with hyperthyroidism thyroxine. They should request a CT scan if they find any small lumps in their necks," he said.
When Souness first went to doctors they brushed off the lumps as cysts and put her heavy breathing down to asthma, but it was far worse, and only showed up on a CT, not the X-rays, Wilson said.
"She was loved by so many people and saw the beauty in the world and always tried to help others. If her story helps save the life of one other person it would be a real testimony to her," he said.
- The Marlborough Express
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