For father-of-three Mike Heiler staying alive meant packing up his family’s life in Wanaka and moving five hours away to Christchurch. The 42-year-old discovered he had stage four bowel cancer that had spread to his liver, lungs and kidneys and treatment wasn’t available in the place he and his wife Turid had planned to grow old in.
The nearest place to get radiation was Dunedin – three hours’ drive away.”We were lucky enough that my work was already based in Christchurch, otherwise moving could have been a lot harder.”
He said the decision to move had to be made quickly as time was of the essence. “Staying in Wanaka wasn’t really an option.” For his three young boys it meant disrupting their schooling and moving them to a different primary school. And for his wife Turid, it meant leaving the speech therapy job she loved.
“Along with all our friends and family down there and the life we were starting to make for ourselves. It was hard.” Originally from Auckland, the family moved to Wanaka in 2012 for the lifestyle and to be closer to Turid’s parents. “We had always planned to retire there but an opportunity to move sooner came up and we jumped at it.”
Now living in Christchurch, all his specialist doctors are just a 10-minute drive away and he has better access to diagnostic testing. He’s had 12 rounds of chemo and five weeks of daily radiation therapy – all of which he would not have been able to have in Wanaka. He is also due to have surgery on his liver this month. The civil engineer said that because of the treatment he’s had access to, continuing to work full-time hasn’t been an issue so far. He doesn’t know how long he has left to live.
Heiler said given the population growth in the Central Lakes district, not being able to access treatment in the area was a huge problem. “It should be available there because some people might not have the flexibility to move that we did,” Heiler said.*
The Heiler family have joined the Move your Butt Challenge this June to raise awareness and funds for Bowel Cancer NZ. You can donate to their page here and watch the video below.
*As published in the NZ Herald on 9 May, 2019