Women's health activist Lynda Williams dies of cancer

Lynda Williams, tireless campaigner for social injustice has died.
LUKE BALLANTINE / SUPPLIED

Lynda Williams, tireless campaigner for social injustice has died.

Longstanding women's health activist Lynda Williams has died, ending a battle with cancer that lasted nearly two years.

The 67-year-old died surrounded by her children at home on Thursday, according to a death notice posted by the family.

Williams was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2015 and had been under hospice care since June.

Lynda fought fearlessly for the causes she believed in.
LUKE BALLANTINE / SUPPLIED

Lynda fought fearlessly for the causes she believed in.

The West Auckland resident worked in women's health for more than 35 years, earning herself a reputation as a tireless campaigner.

READ MORE: West Aucklanders honoured in New Years list

She opened the Auckland Caesarean Support Group in 1984 after feeling she had little control over how she was treated after giving birth.

She was a co-ordinator for the Auckland Women's Health Council and the Auckland Maternity Services Consumer Council from the early 1990s, and was also active in the Homebirth Association.

Friend and fellow health campaigner Dr Graham Gulbransen said Williams was fearless, with a strong awareness of injustice.

"She was just always there, and never gave up when things needed to be put right," he said.

"I think she looked at her health in the same way, that as much as possible she wasn't going to give up on this."

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Gulbransen said Williams maintained a presence at Waitemata DHB until near the end, "challenging them, and letting the board know that the people are watching".

Williams was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2017 New Year Honours for her services to women's health.

Her death notice described her as a "beloved mother" to five children – Luke, Taare, Samantha, Ariel and Tristan – and a grandmother of six.

"She is survived by her immensely proud family," the notice said.

Shortly after her diagnosis Williams began a blog, Lynda's Letters, where she chronicled her journey.

"I do not pity myself, nor have I ever wondered 'Why me?'" she wrote in an early entry. 

"Yes, I think it is unfair, cruel even, but it is what it is. I haven't got time to rail against my fate even if I wanted to, which I don't."

She wrote frankly of her struggles with terminal cancer, and posted on June 5 that she was struggling with not being able to eat or drink anything without suffering spasmodic pain.

"The heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and gastric pain that follows from swallowing even a sip of water has become more than I can bear," she wrote.

"Some nights the pain is excruciating and nothing I am prescribed seems to work.

"I feel myself getting weaker by the day and I am now desperately hoping that there is a Plan B that will work and get rid of the pain."

Williams last posted on June 25, after which her son Luke Ballantine took responsibility for the blog.

"Mum has had some really great days over the past few weeks," wrote Ballantine on July 2, four days before his mother died.

"It is clear she is still able to have a high quality of life at the end, thanks to her wonderful network of friends and family."

After her death, Ballantine said he and the family were grateful for all the messages of support they had received from her friends, colleagues and people in the community over this past 20 months.

"It has been really touching to hear from people that have acknowledged the impact she has had on the health service. The culmination of that was the Order of Merit award she received in the New Years honours list this year.

"We were all very proud to call her our mother."

Williams will be farewelled with a service in Oratia on Monday, July 10.

Ballantine added that "bangles may be worn" at the service.

 - Stuff

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