Wayne Cherry used to wonder whether cancer would stop him seeing the All Blacks play live. But he'll have the best view in the house when he carries the flag on to Eden Park ahead of the team's second Bledisloe Cup test against Australia next weekend.
On Valentine's Day 2008, the Hutt Valley boy, then 13, was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system, and endured a gruelling two years of chemotherapy treatment. In a moving speech to the cancer charity Cure Kids, he spoke of how he'd lived with chronic pain and how he couldn't walk for two weeks after some rounds of chemotherapy. He lost 10 friends in four years, teenagers and children he met during his treatment, including a toddler who died the day after her fifth birthday.
The treatment was tough but Wayne had shown signs of his mettle before his diagnosis. He'd been a top motocross competitor, and took eighth place at a New Zealand Grand Prix meet only three days before going into hospital.
"The doctors could hardly believe he could actually ride a motocross bike in the condition he was in, let alone finish in the top 10 in the country," Cure Kids' Hayley McLarin said.
Wayne said cancer diagnoses that not so long ago were a death sentence were now more easily overcome. And from his own experience, he had words of advice to Kiwis diagnosed with treatable cancer.
"Keep calm and keep thinking it's only temporary ... just relax and keep going day by day."
Although he finished treatment in November 2010, he still had health problems, including recurring shingles. But he's able to enjoy life today far more than when he had cancer.
He'll certainly be enjoying himself when he and four others get on to Eden Park ahead of the test, thanks to Cure Kids' status as official All Black charity.
His favourite players are Ma'a Nonu and cancer survivor Aaron Cruden, who he called an inspiration.
"Life's quite a bit different now, that's for sure. Before, you were worrying about not going away for the weekend, because something might happen. You might end up in hospital. Now you're worrying about what you don't do."
Fun for rugby fans
By 2pm yesterday only 200 seats were left for the test match. They were a mix of singles and restricted-view seats.
Those going to the game are being urged to walk the World Cup fan trail, reopened for the big game.
And to get people in the mood, The Cloud will be open 2pm-6pm on the Auckland waterfront for a Cure Kids fun day.
An inflatable rugby pitch will be centre stage. Cure Kids is hoping to have all 48,500 people wear a red nose at halftime at the rugby in support of the cancer charity and will hand them out at the game. To donate $3 to Cure Kids, text Cure to 933.By John Weekes Email John