A young Paihia man is organising a fundraising walk for his best mate who is battling cancer.
Gary-John "GJ" Hill, a Kerikeri fitness trainer and a former Northland No 1 golfer, is in Auckland undergoing chemotherapy for stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The super-fit 29-year-old's diagnosis has shocked his friends and workmates, who are rallying around Mr Hill and his wife Sasha to help.
They include his mate Yeadon Strongman-Waha, who is organising a 'Walk for GJ' fundraiser.
Mr Strongman-Waha, an assistant manager at Action World in Paihia, met Mr Hill in the gym a year ago. They clicked straight away and soon became training partners.
"He's definitely one of my best mates."
Mr Hill, originally from Whangarei, is a former Northland No 1 golfer and has featured in Australian TV series The NRL Rookie. He returned to Northland last year after a stint in Perth and had been working at Kerikeri Community Fitness and Marty's Golf Range.
Earlier this year Mr Hill, who had been doing 300kg dead lifts, found his strength was ebbing. He was struggling to put on weight and noticed lumps on his neck which turned out to be swollen lymph nodes. He was diagnosed after a blood test in August.
"He was shocked. He's so young, and he's been healthy all his life."
He had lost his hair and 30kg but the chemo, which started four weeks ago, seemed to be having an effect on the cancer. Before the treatment started he could barely walk from the car to the gym, Mr Strongman-Waha said.
Mr Hill had quit his job and his wife had put hers on hold to be with him in Auckland, but the couple still had bills to pay such as rent, food and vitamin C treatment.
To help them workmates at the gym were holding fundraising raffles and Mr Strongman-Waha, with his girlfriend Josefina Pantano, were organising a Walk for GJ.
The 6km loop walk would start at 11.30am on Sunday, November 5, at the DoC reserve at Kerikeri Basin, across the river from the Stone Store.
The route would cross the footbridge, head up the Stone Store Hill, down the bypass and back via the Rainbow Falls track, finishing with a sausage sizzle and raffle draws. Entry is by donation.
Mr Strongman-Waha said a lot of people knew Mr Hill through the gym and because "he's a pretty easy guy on get on with".
He went to see his mate in Auckland on Monday, after shaving his head in solidarity, and took him out for a round of golf. Mr Hill had to stay in the golf cart but it got him out for the day, he said.
His progress would become clearer after a scan due in about two weeks' time.
Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's immune system.