Chef, trotting driver sidelined with lymphoma
Work colleagues and the harness racing industry are rallying behind Tim Robertson as he undergoes treatment for stage four cancer.
Mr Robertson, of Invercargill, is a sous chef at the Kelvin Hotel and drives trotters in his spare time.
He was diagnosed with grey zone lymphoma in his neck, chest and pelvis three days after buying a house in July. He is receiving chemotherapy every three weeks in Invercargill and has been told he cannot work for a year.
The 26-year-old is on a weekly benefit, the supportive living payment, but that does not cover living costs for him, fiancee Rebecca Priest, and their children, Grace, 3, and Isabella, 5 months.
The couple's parents and friends have helped with mortgage repayments. Miss Priest was to return to the workforce when Mr Robertson got the bad news.
The first sign of him being unwell came when he dismantled an oven in the Kelvin Hotel's kitchen for cleaning one Sunday night in March.
He felt pain in his chest and thought it was a pulled muscle.
But the pain did not go away, forcing Mr Robertson to visit the accident and emergency department at Southland Hospital.
He was treated for pericarditis - inflammation around the heart.
Eventually more X-rays and intensive tests revealed grey zone lymphoma. "I wasn't expecting that. If it was [stage] one or two . . . but to find out it was stage four was tough going," Mr Robertson said. Not being able to work and drive trotters has been frustrating. "I'm not used to being at home so much."
In August, he bought a golden labrador to take on walks to help fill in his days.
Miss Priest said she and Mr Robertson were slowly adjusting to a difficult situation.
"It's upsetting when you get told the person you love has it [cancer]," she said.
"A lot of times we wonder why this has happened. I don't think I've ever met a person as nice as him . . . it's not fair."
Harness Racing New Zealand has given Mr Robertson $5000 from its provident fund, which is used to support injured drivers.
"I wasn't expecting anything. It was a bit of a shock to see the amount," Mr Robertson said.
Harness Racing New Zealand's chief executive, Edward Rennell, said his organisation was saddened to learn of Mr Robertson's condition. "We're keen to help where we can."
Southern Harness racing manager Jason Broad is organising ways to generate funds for Mr Robertson.
Donation containers will be at racemeetings, workouts and trials; and sausage sizzles are planned.
Staff at the Kelvin Hotel have collected funds for their workmate while the hotel's owner, the Invercargill Licensing Trust, is holding Mr Robertson's job for at least a year.
The Southland Times