Turid Heiler’s husband Mike was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer at just 42 years old, on their youngest child’s 6th birthday. Walking the 12km Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon is a way for Turid to raise awareness and funds as the father of her three boys, undergoes treatment.
Turid choose the Vineyard Half as it is in a beautiful part of the world, in an amazing setting, allowing her to complete a goal close to her heart in an ‘environment that feeds the soul’. Plus Turid says, “it has the 12 km walk option which is an appealing distance of a mission for me!”
There is one very important area that Turid would like to see funds raised for Bowel Cancer NZ used for and that is research. “In New Zealand we don’t lack talented, motivated, dedicated doctors, nurses, allied health professionals but we do lack funding to support the exceptional work and research they do. New Zealand punches above its weight in terms of finding answers to many tricky medical questions, and therefore funding for research into bowel cancer by our New Zealand teams will mean bang for our buck and hope for all those hit by this nasty cancer,” said Turid.
Turid recalls her family’s journey with bowel cancer. “It started with a phone call after my husband’s colonoscopy – I was about to get on a chairlift on Cardrona ski field, so confident that the verdict would be hemorrhoids, when Mike rung with the results, ending the blue bird ski day. That day was followed by rounds of specialist visits and the news it was stage 4.
“That day we hopped on a roller-coaster that often feels more like a steam roller, with torturous waiting periods in between scans for news that dictates whether the roller coaster is on its way up or the steam roller has taken over. Such high hopes after a positive response to chemotherapy and a successful bowel and liver operation. Hopes dashed with the news of the return of metastasis in the liver, another operation to see if we could quickly remove those, once again floored by the news even more lesions had joined those already there. More scans- more ‘scanxiety’ with news of spine and kidney lesions, followed by a brief reprieve with more positive response to chemotherapy, but a few dizzy spells marking the arrival of metastasis in the brain.”
Turid has found exercise is key to maintaining an ability to cope with the everyday as well as crisis points on their journey. “My training, which doubles as my therapy is to walk to Hagley Park with my faithful dog Otter, and circuit the park – taking time to breathe, to enjoy the incredible place that Hagley Park is, and have my dose of nature as well as smiles from other walkers.
“I have lately taken a more ‘serious’ approach to this training, timing my laps, recording my walks and taking a slightly more ‘competitive’ pace with other walkers. I would like to say that that I am doing the half to show Mike that I am able to put up with a grueling challenge like he does, that I am able to show grit and determination in the face of adversity but the reality is I am doing the 12km version because it will help me – the training, the weekend away will give me strength to help him.”
Amid all this, Turid says Mike has maintained his sense of humour, his strength and resolution to face each challenge, and coped with side-effects of chemotherapy, surgeries and pain without complaint.
“Raising awareness of Bowel Cancer – a cancer that if caught early has such good odds, a cancer that affects young – many young, as well as old is something I want to be part of. It is such a commonly occurring cancer, but still a relatively little talked about cancer. Perhaps because we don’t like to talk about Poo and Bottoms? Well the Vineyard Half is a way to start those uncomfortable conversations.”