Nick Linney didn't stop to question why he was diagnosed with a rare cancer. He just focused on beating it.
"To me, this had suddenly become a test, a mere obstacle, a challenge and death was not an option," the 16-year-old wrote on his Facebook page, while encouraging friends to ask him questions, rather than shy away from the topic.
With unfailing determination he told his parents that cancer had happened to him because he was the type of person who could handle it.
And when it became clear he wouldn't make it, he focused on his family and friends, doling out advice from his hospital bed.
The sports-loving St Patrick's College pupil died in Wellington Hospital on Wednesday, with his parents, Richard and Mel, and sisters Ruby, 12, and Georgia, 14, at his side.
His death came 11 months after he was diagnosed, last September, with the rare form of bone cancer Ewing's sarcoma.
For five months he had suffered from intense leg pain.
In his Facebook message, he recalled the day of his diagnosis, and his reaction to it.
"I said ‘How do we beat this thing then?' Because to me, this had suddenly become a test, a mere obstacle, a challenge and death was not an option. It had now become my goal and challenge to beat cancer.
"I didn't even bat an eyelid to the fact that some people were going to look at me and see death calling. Maybe they could, but I didn't. And I never will."
One of his hardest days was being told he would be unlikely to play sports again.
Nick had played football since age 4, softball and cricket since he was 9, competed in triathlon events, had just taken up rugby, and was heartbroken at the prospect of not playing sport again.
"I cried when I was told that I may never run again," he wrote.
"To hear I would never play these sports again was heartbreaking. But that was that and I couldn't change a thing."
Nick's parents said their son had been strong, optimistic - even polite - from the start. "Even when Nick was in major pain he would always say please and thank you . . . His attitude was impressive. His motto, his sign off, was ‘keep smiling'," Mr Linney said.
Nick kept working towards goals in spite of the diagnosis. He met the actor-musician Jack Black through the Make a Wish Foundation, wrote and recorded a song with a school friend, supported a fundraising event organised by St Pat's students called Snip The (Bieber) Flick For Nick, and made it to the school ball last month - returning to hospital at 3am.
St Patrick's College rector Paul Martin said although Nick had been unable to attend school this year, he still participated in events and was very much a part of the community.
When some of his friends learned on Monday that Nick was likely to die soon, they put together a video for him to watch in hospital, featuring messages from teachers and students and the school song and haka.
About 200 students attended a school mass yesterday.
"He was a really good kid, just an ordinary kid who got stuck into everything and was really very well liked," Father Martin said.
"He gave things a go and when he was sick he was gutsy and determined, he was going to get better, very positive, and when he found out that he wasn't, he was very gracious in dying and had words of advice to his mates."
Mr Linney said that in the past week Nick "held court" with friends at the hospital, gathering them round to dish out pieces of advice.
Friend Lauchie Johns, together with others, has organised a Facebook group - A Picket For Nick - to raise money for a memorial picket fence at the Basin Reserve, which has attracted nearly 1000 members since Thursday.
"He was an inspiration in the way he held himself. Through his sickness he was always upbeat, always happy and always interested in what you were doing.
"He inspired us to live our lives as best we could, because we may not have as long as we expect."
Nick's funeral will be on Monday at St Patrick's College.
CANCER 'A MERE OBSTACLE'
Excerpt from My Story - Facebook post from Nick Linney, April 6, 2013:
12 months ago, I was like any other boy. Preparing for my first rugby season, just the next one for many others . . . I never thought that last season would be my first and final season of rugby . . . As the season progressed, the symptoms for my cancer were becoming more frequent. A pain in the middle of my right thigh . . . It was barely able to walk properly pain. It was always there nagging you and would not go away. Nothing could make you forget it at all . . . My parents and I decided it was time to investigate further . . . After a week of tests and scans we got results. That was when I revealed to the world that I had cancer.
I had been taking pain killers that weren't helping at all . . . People at school may have seen me limping in the two months leading up to diagnosis. I also remember asking a mate of mine to give me a dead arm to forget about the pain in my leg. This leg was giving me grief and I was swimming in buckets of it.
You have to understand that from all the stories I had heard, when someone hears the words "You have cancer," they hear death knocking at the door. That wasn't what I heard or thought. You may think this is crazy but I said, "How do we beat this thing then?" Because to me, this had suddenly become a test, a mere obstacle, a challenge and death was not an option. It had now become my goal to beat cancer. I didn't even bat an eyelid to the fact some people were going to look at me and see death calling.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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