Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Family mark year without Nadia

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Kane Fannin, his son Albie, 5, and daughter Indie, 3, sitting on the rocks in the centre of Whale Bay as they remember Nadia, who passed away last year from breast cancer. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Kane Fannin, his son Albie, 5, and daughter Indie, 3, sitting on the rocks in the centre of Whale Bay as they remember Nadia, who passed away last year from breast cancer. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Kane Fannin took his two young children to the beach yesterday - a seemingly ordinary family excursion in the school holidays.

But for Mr Fannin, son Albie, 5, and daughter Indie, 3, the trip to Whale Bay in Whangarei was made to mark the one-year anniversary since wife and mother Nadia Fannin died of breast cancer.

Mr Fannin's story, of how he coped with his wife's diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately her death, is one of 18 featuring Kiwi men in a new book compiled by writer Peter Calder for men who have a woman in their life with breast cancer.

Mrs Fannin was just 31 when she found a lump while breastfeeding baby Indie in late 2010.

On the advice of doctors, who initially diagnosed a cyst, she put off a biopsy so she could continue breastfeeding.

Eight months later the unthinkable happened and Mrs Fannin was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In his story Mr Fannin, a school teacher, describes the pain and grieving he went through, even before his wife died just months short of their 10th wedding anniversary.

He decided to detail his experience to Calder, who began the book She's Got Breast Cancer after his own wife battled the disease, to help other men who might be suffering in silence.

"You're almost the left out party," Mr Fannin said.

His advice to family and friends of couples struck down by breast cancer was to "just be there".

"Just go and visit and let people know you're thinking of them. A particular mate of mine was really good to me and he just kept it a little bit more real and that's what I needed. Not really any pity."

Opening up to be part of the book helped Mr Fannin deal with some of his grief and anger and accept what happened.

"I was quite angry about that process [of misdiagnosis] because I wanted to be angry at something or someone."

One of his biggest heartbreaks was trying to explain Mrs Fannin's death to their children.

To ease the pain of birthdays and special events Mrs Fannin pre-wrote cards for the kids for years to come, bought presents and made videos for them to remember her.

Mr Fannin said now when the children are missing their mum they ask him to tell stories about her.

Going to their mother's favourite beach yesterday with friends was as much about celebrating her life as it was a fun day out for the kids.

Their group sat and reflected on the past year at a bench seat Mr Fannin had erected in his wife's memory.

Mr Fannin said he had his wife to thank for his new outlook.

"I'm more positive than I thought I would ever be at this stage, due to her strength of what she wanted for me and the kids.

"I've found another lady.

"My wife saw the injustice of her kids not having a mum and one of her strongest wishes was that the kids had another mother role model and a good one.

"I didn't think I would ever be that happy again."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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