Death not eased by son's experience
After being told her 4-year-old child had cancer, Kelly Sutherland thought experience would have softened the blow when she received similar news about another loved one.
But nothing could have prepared her for the loss of husband Chris to melanoma six weeks after he was diagnosed.
Chris Sutherland last week died in the care of Nurse Maude Palliative Care after he was diagnosed with terminal melanoma on July 2.
The diagnosis came six days before son Lachie finished punishing treatment for the neuroblastoma he had been battling since January last year.
"I would've thought when Chris told me that I would've been better prepared for this kind of information," Kelly Sutherland told The Press.
"I would've thought being told it once, it would've taken the edge off it. But the information was just as overwhelming.
"Everything was the same."
The Sutherlands' story has touched the country.
Sutherland has chronicled her journey on her Facebook page, which has garnered overwhelming support from cancer sufferers and sympathisers alike.
Their Givealittle page is $35 short of topping $50,000 in donations.
Sutherland said the support from the public, most of whom she did not know, was "humbling".
"Chris mentioned all the time with Lachie fundraising was very awkward. He didn't like being the centre of attention and asking for help. But it is so refreshing to know that the world is full of very good people. Chris looked at that and said: How amazing, we're surrounded by all these people who have our interests at heart."
The funds were initially earmarked for drugs that would help Chris but his deterioration was so rapid he was no longer well enough to proceed with the treatment.
"That was really tough - holding on to a feeling of hope and realising that was no longer an option for him," she said.
The money was now being sent by those wanting to make sure Sutherland and Lachie are "taken care of".
Sutherland said she was getting to grips with her new life without her "main support person" and Lachie, now 5, had returned to school.
"Now it's about getting Lachie through this period and to make sure he has wonderful memories of his Dad as well."
The father-son duo had shared a special bond in the final months of Chris' life.
"Lachie is not a normal 5-year-old in many regards due to his experiences. You would say to Lachie: Daddy's in pain at the moment, and he would say: Oh is he getting morphine?"
However, Sutherland had to now continue to live with the knowledge that the process might not be over.
"If you talk to any parent that's gone through that treatment, you wait in a period of many years just waiting to see what happens.
"It's inevitable for us with Lachie that there is a chance of a relapse, and now I don't have Chris to provide that support," she said.
One resounding message she has for people is to "be cautious and be aware, and get things checked".
"I cringe every time I hear somebody say so and so's been out sun bathing. Lachie was programmed to have cancer . . . but at the end of six weeks I had a healthy husband that was taken from me by something that's preventable."
Chris would always be remembered for the "huge pride he had as a man and as a father", Sutherland said, and for "stepping up to the task of looking after his son in such an incredible way".
- © Fairfax NZ News
Pals and playmates (pictures)
Reacting to a sudden cancellation
New Zealand's best deck built yesterday
Appreciating Tony Allen
The meaning of blogging