When Elizabeth's husband passed away at North Haven Hospice in Whangarei after a battle with cancer, she had no idea that just months later she would be back at the hospice with cancer herself.
Elizabeth, who does not want her surname used, is speaking about her experience ahead of the organisation's big annual fundraiser next week.
She said the moment the diagnosis came through was heartbreaking. "The GP recommends that contact with the hospice ... at that point, your heart sinks and you think 'this is the end'."
Initially, her husband John wasn't keen to go to hospice. "You're thinking, 'That's where you go to die, isn't it'?"
But that perception was happily shattered when the couple walked in the doors at North Haven. Elizabeth said the relationships, programmes and services it offered made coping with cancer that much more bearable. It was the little things that could make a world of difference, she said, many of which were offered by the 400 or so volunteers (aged between 14 and the mid-90s). Things such as hand and foot massages - although physically beneficial for many people, the human touch could have an emotional impact, too.
John passed away in September last year. "He wanted to be here [at North Haven] at the end, because we didn't have any family in Whangarei ... It really was a special time, his passing," Elizabeth said.
"I was able to be next to the bed and hold his hand, and he just slipped off... Through John's journey there was all this support. It takes a lot of fear and apprehension away."
Then earlier this year, she was diagnosed with cancer herself. She has since been through radiotherapy and is now in remission.
North Haven Hospice is partly funded by the Northland District Health Board but still needs more than $1 million each year. Its main fundraiser is next Tuesday's Melbourne Cup Long Lunch.
From 1.30-5.30pm at Toll Stadium, guests will receive a three-course meal, a drink, entertainment, prizes and sweepstakes, as well as Melbourne Cup cover at 5pm. There will also be "Fashion in the Field" for men and women.
Tickets are $85 each or $680 for a table of eight. Contact Hannah or Sarah for tickets, (09) 437-3355.