Ten-year-old forms group to raise awareness of mum's lung cancer plight
Running the Summer Starter last year was something fun for the Hodges family to do together.
This year, it has become a way to help them get through mum Kate's lung cancer diagnosis, in more ways than one.
Kate Hodges was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma in July.
She was told "pretty bluntly" there was no cure – treatment options were limited to controlling the cancer and maintaining the best possible quality of life.
"My children were struggling – particularly Tom, being a boy – to talk about what was going on. [The Summer Starter] just seemed like a good way to get conversation flowing," she said.
Getting a group together to run the ASB Summer Starter in November could be a way for Tom to get support from his friends, without putting as much pressure on him to talk, Hodges said.
The 10-year-old rallied some of his school mates and the group of seven, who call themselves "The Lung Busters," began training for this year's 10-kilometre track. A page was set-up to raise money for the Lung Foundation.
Support started pouring in, with families making donations, a group of mums planning to walk the track and Tom's 11-year-old sister Emily organising a fundraising concert.
Hodges said the support was "really humbling," and the plan to get Tom and Emily talking more about her illness had worked.
"All of a sudden me having cancer is something we talk about like I've got a broken leg," she said.
"It's very much part of every day conversation now and that's purely due to doing the fundraising and making it become a topic of conversation."
Hodges said it was the campaign for the Lung Foundation that added to the family's plan to get through, but it was not just about the money.
Lung cancer is New Zealand's biggest cancer killer, accounting for almost 20 per cent of cancer-related deaths.
Hodges has never smoked, and she wants to raise awareness about the fact lung cancer is not just a smoker's illness.
"More than 1600 Kiwis [die] every year, almost five a day, but there is an appalling lack of public awareness and support for lung cancer patients.
"It seems that due to the long held stigma of it being only a smoker's disease it is very much the poor cousin in this respect," she said.
More than $8500 has been raised towards The Lung Busters' goal of $10,000. If they reach their target, they will increase it to $20,000.
"Their initial goal was $500. They've been pretty blown away," Hodges said.
Donations to The Lung Busters' cause can be made online at summerstarter2016.everydayhero.com/nz/tom-hodges
* Register now to enter the 2016 ASB Summer Starter at summerstarter.co.nz