Even in the face of a rare brain cancer diagnosis 36-year-old Shane Simpkins is still community-driven, using his experiences to motivate and empower all who will listen.
When Simpkins was diagnosed in November with glioblastoma multiforme, a rare brain cancer, he told doctors he did not want to hear what his life expectancy was.
"I didn't want to know. No one will tell me what I can and can't do. I refuse to see it as a death sentence."
That was a day Simpkins' partner Sam, 30, said she will never forget.
"We went from one day being blissfully unaware of what was about to happen, to having a meeting and being told he has the GBM tumour, to the very next day meeting with the oncologist and being given this wealth of information on what the type of cancer is, what the treatment options were," she said.
"He pretty much said this is what I can do for you. After that, we don't have anything else. That was a pretty horrific day for both of us actually. As oncologists we put our trust in them that they will fix us or make us better and it's devastating to be told that once you've tried those treatment options, that's it."
GBM is a highly aggressive cancer and the only offered treatments are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, the tumour is highly radiation and drug-resistant, prompting Simpkins to seek out a second opinion and, in turn other complementary treatments.
"I started seeing a private oncologist who went over nutrition and other options I had been asking about from the start. People always say to get a second opinion, but where? I had no idea there was private oncology available until my oncologist said it could be an option, several weeks into seeing him.
"After the initial appointment with her [the private oncologist] I came away feeling hopeful. It really changed my outlook. I want this for other people."
But getting a private second opinion wasn't cheap.
The pair, who were awaiting the arrival of their second child, said they couldn't put a price on Simpkin's life but knew in order to take every opportunity available to them, they were going to need help. And fast.
"We took a friend's advice and set up a Give a Little page. If we wanted to be able to do all the things that we could for Shane's treatment recovery we were going to have to have some help because it's just so expensive," Sam said.
Since the family set up the Give a Little page just before Christmas, people had donated more than $15,000, allowing Simpkin to attend several different forms of alternative treatment, including a 10-day retreat at the Gawler Foundation, a holistic wellbeing facility for people with serious illness.
"He now has all this information and he wants to share it, with anyone that will listen. He's been taking it to the support group run by the Cancer Society. It's just in Shane to help others. He wants to make it easier for others to access this information. To empower them and give them more options."
As well as donating to the Give a Little page, Simpkin's friends have come up with other fundraising initiatives that incorporate Shane's love of the outdoors.
"Our friends have organised a fundraising event for people to bike the Redwoods in Rotorua, because that's something Shane loved to do.
"There will be an entry fee, and a bus to take people to the top so they can just bike down. Everyone has just been awesome," Sam said.
"I struggle to figure out how to say thank you to everyone that has helped us. Neighbours, family, friends, strangers, work colleges, uni, the rugby referees' association.
"Thank you just doesn't seem big enough," he said.
To donate, go to givealittle.co.nz and type in Shane's Kicking Cancer Campaign, or follow his journey on facebook.com/shaneskickingcancercampaign.
*Erin Majurey is a Wintec journalism student
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