Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Widower's tribute sits well in fight against bowel cancer

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ART TO INSPIRE ACTION: Brett Morrison with the chair he made for Bowel Cancer New Zealand and the awareness month of June.
ART TO INSPIRE ACTION: Brett Morrison with the chair he made for Bowel Cancer New Zealand and the awareness month of June.

Brett Morrison has turned a humble chair into a work of art to help raise awareness of bowel cancer and money for its diagnosis.

His chair, entitled Hope, along with chairs made by iconic New Zealand's artists including Owen Dippie, Flox, Dick Frizzell, Shane Hansen, Reuben Paterson and Boh Runga, will be auctioned off in June as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month.

Brett Morrison lost his wife Sarah to bowel cancer just over a year ago. Since her death he has campaigned for greater awareness and more funding in the hope others would avoid the same fate.

Every day, three or four people die of bowel cancer in New Zealand.

When Bowel Cancer New Zealand approached Mr Morrison for help with the campaign, he knew he was no Picasso but could pull together a good photo, he said. The photo was printed on the backrest of the chair.

"It's taken in the sand dunes across the road from home, where Sarah and I would take our dog for a walk most nights. I chose that sunset because it was one of the pictures I took after Sarah passed.

"I got into photography because she got too ill to leave the house. I would get pictures of the beach to take home for her to see, so she was still experiencing it with me."

Mr Morrison said he felt privileged to be featured alongside some world-renowned artists for the campaign. "I'm definitely honoured to be included."

Mr Morrison said while there was a $39 million initiative to roll out a national bowel screening programme in this year's Budget, more needed to be done, with the rollout only screening people aged between 60 and 74 every two years.

"It's not nationwide yet and there are so many people in their early 30s, which is miles outside the bracket of testing. They said it was nationwide but it's only a couple of DHBs and a small range of people.

"I think education is the main thing until the Government safety net can catch us all. We have to catch ourselves, our friends and our family. The best way to do that is to educate each other."

Mr Morrison said when Sarah first got sick they did not have the knowledge to realise something was wrong. Sarah started to lose weight and her bowel movements changed, he said.

"I look back and think 'man, we missed this, this and this'.

"One day she was giving me grief for how often I go to the toilet. She said to me, "sometimes I won't go for days". "We thought nothing of it, and it's not fault because we weren't educated. No one thinks that is a big deal - it's just a poo.

"It's not our doctor's fault either because we didn't know the information to diagnose her. That is where the education comes in. The smaller things paint a bigger picture."

To view the chairs, head to http://artchairs.co.nz/.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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