Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Giving up booze in July to help chemo rooms is an easy choice

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Kerre's visit to a chemo room, where Jess Finnigan inspired her. Photo / Supplied
Kerre's visit to a chemo room, where Jess Finnigan inspired her. Photo / Supplied

I have always imagined that if, or most likely when, I get cancer, I will be well cared for.

Cancer survivors I've spoken to speak glowingly of the care they have received under the national health system and our rates of survival, from a range of cancers, are good.

I had no idea of the reality of the situation until I signed up as an ambassador for Dry July.

Based on an Aussie model, you sign up to the website, give up grog for the month of July, and get people to sponsor you to raise money for good causes. This is the inaugural Dry July for New Zealand and the money raised will help to improve conditions for those receiving chemotherapy.

Until I visited the chemo room, I had imagined that chemotherapy would involve sitting in a comfortable recliner chair, in a private booth, with perhaps a television or soothing music playing, light controls and the time and space to focus on fighting cancer.

There would be WiFi, certainly, but more importantly there would be privacy.

The reality couldn't be more different. Although the professionalism of the staff is beyond question, even they despair at the conditions.

People are crammed in together, looking for all the world like they're at a train station at rush hour, on whatever chairs can be found.

There are no TVs, no WiFi, no facilities for family members or friends to visit or support the patient during the long, boring hours the chemo is being pumped in and absolutely no privacy.

I was shocked and although I'd signed up to Dry July for my own immediate good, I'm more motivated than ever to try to improve conditions for cancer patients - even if it's in the most basic of ways.

If you want to sponsor me, or join me in the challenge, go to www.dryjuly.co.nz.

You could actually end up helping yourself.

- Herald on Sunday

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