Homeless cancer teen finds new home: 'Thank you to everyone for their love and support'

By Solbin Kang

A 16-year-old cancer sufferer who ended up homeless with the rest of her family after they moved to Auckland for her treatment has found a new home.

The girl, whose plight came to light after she shared her story on Facebook, said this morning she was thankful that her family has a new home, after they were taken in at South Auckland's Te Puea Marae last week.

The girl's post on the marae's Facebook page Te Puea Memorial Marae Manaaki Tangata was shared 16,000 times and reached 438,471 people by 10.30am today, just 18 hours after she posted it.

Her father and her 18-year-old brother have both been offered jobs, and the family, including three younger children, will move into "a brand new four-bedroom house" owned by Housing NZ tomorrow.

The girl, who does not wish to be named, told reporters this morning: "I just want to say thank you to everyone for their love and support. Thank you to everyone at Te Puea Marae for everything they have done for my family and I."

The teenager, referred to only as "B", became homeless with her father, three brothers and her sister after they moved to Auckland from Hamilton.

"B" was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma soon after her cousin drowned at Hunua Falls. She had a tumour in her lower back. Her post said it "all went down hill from there".

"When I got told, I didn't think about anything, I just started crying. It was hard to take in. The doctors said I needed chemotherapy straight away so it wouldn't spread and that the best place for that was Starship Hospital in Auckland," it said.

The family then moved from Hamilton to live in "B's" aunt's home in Mangere to be closer to Starship Hospital. "B" was in hospital for a month.

"I wasn't able to swallow, I got infections, I had two massive seizures. I had to have antibiotics and that led to kidney problems so not only do I have cancer, I have kidney problems."

When she left Starship Hospital, "B" went back to her aunt's home.

However, there were 15 people staying the Mangere house and the 16-year-old had to sleep on a mattress in a room she shared with her two younger brothers. "It wasn't really good because the hospital said I had to wear a mask because I could easily get infected.

"It was nice to be around family, I didn't want to talk about having cancer."

Her father, who previously worked as a painter in Hamilton, tried to find his family a home. "He would go to Winz for appointments, he told them about me having cancer, about us.

"They did nothing. He went to Housing NZ, told them. They couldn't find us a house. Too full, they said, too full."

When things at her aunt's "got really tense", the family left and had stayed at the marae since. "We were stuck at Aunty's. Things got really tense, so we had leave. My Dad heard about what the marae was doing and said 'let's try the marae'."

Asked this morning about the family's new home, she said: "I'm just thankful for that. Now we don't have to worry about being homeless any more."

She said the two things she most wanted in life were to meet American wrestler Roman Reigns and to visit family in Samoa, where her mother lives.

She said she was feeling "alright" after her latest round of chemotherapy.

Wayne Howett, chief executive of Ronald McDonald House which has rooms for 86 families of children being treated at Starship Hospital, said he could have accommodated the family if they were referred from their original home in Hamilton.

However, it is unclear where they were living at the time because they had come up to Mangere to support B's Aunty after the aunt's son died at Hunua Falls in March.

- NZ Herald

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