When Timaru teenager Joshua Lind was diagnosed with cancer of the liver at the age of nine, he and his family's world was turned upside down.
The odds were stacked against him - they recently learned only one in five patients survive the rare form of the disease.
Parents Fleur and Kevin Lind told The Timaru Herald of the agonising hours waiting for doctors to make decisions on how to save Josh's life.
Joshua had been experiencing severe stomach pains and one weekend developed jaundice. The doctor in Nelson, where they were then living, carried out an ultrasound scan that revealed a dark shadow over Josh's liver and he was airlifted to Christchurch.
It took doctors in the Children's Haematology Oncology Centre (CHOC) two weeks to determine whether surgery was an option.
"In that time they had to do all the tests and scans and biopsies to figure out what exactly they were dealing with," Mrs Lind said.
During that time Mrs Lind was booked into Ronald McDonald House, her husband unable to join her, being self-employed and the family's only source of income.
Although she spent most nights at Joshua's bedside, the house, which she described as "beautiful", provided much-needed comfort and relief.
She said there were moments where she needed a shower or a bath, and a good night's sleep, or she would "lose it".
On occasion, she would allow herself to stay at the house and return to Joshua in the morning.
"When you have every other worry in the world going on in your head, it's an oasis," Mrs Lind said.
Finally, Joshua was cleared for surgery and the family, including elder sister Melissa, flew to Auckland where they were again booked into Ronald McDonald House.
It was a three-minute walk to Starship children's hospital, which was "brilliant", Mr Lind said.
The care and support they received was "humbling".
"We were made to feel at home (by the) staff and volunteers. They took all the stress out of it."
The family continue to stay at Ronald McDonald House when Joshua attends regular follow-up scans at Christchurch.
Now 18, he recently had his last scan, which was clear. He is working fulltime at Sophie's Coffee Lounge and is a fully-qualified barista. He is supporting this month's Movember appeal for men's health.
His parents are "extremely proud" of their son.
The family encourage people to donate to Ronald McDonald House, and are supporting McHappy Day today.
They have donated a monthly amount for nine years, and hold sausage sizzles for Child Cancer.
"You never know when family or friends are going to need to use Ronald McDonald House," Mr Lind said. "We never would have guessed in our wildest dreams that one of our kids would've got seriously ill."
McHappy Day is McDonald's New Zealand's biggest annual fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities, and this year McDonald's restaurants aim to raise $250,000 nationwide for the charity.
$1 from every Big Mac burger or Happy Meal sold on McHappy Day will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities, an organisation which provides free specialist care to sick children and their families.
Smile stickers will also be sold in store for $1 from today, with all proceeds going straight into RMHC.
- © Fairfax NZ News