Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's education and lifestyle reporter.

Dying man overwhelmed by generosity

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FAMILY: Dion Werahiko (centre) with his sons Kamira Pirini-Werahiko, 13, (left) and Sabastian Flutey-Werahiko, 5, and partner Rachel Flutey. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
FAMILY: Dion Werahiko (centre) with his sons Kamira Pirini-Werahiko, 13, (left) and Sabastian Flutey-Werahiko, 5, and partner Rachel Flutey. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Five weeks ago 34-year-old Dion Werahiko did not have a care in the world.

A successful bone marrow transplant six months earlier meant the Rotorua man's two-year battle against an aggressive form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) seemed to be over.

But then life threw Mr Werahiko and his family a curve ball. His bones started aching again and he knew his cancer was back.

Doctors have since given the father of three two months to live.

"It was hard hearing the doctors say there was nothing they could do, I kept thinking, we've got to at least try... I've still got it in my mind I'm going to kick it," he said.

But "not one to dwell", Mr Werahiko said his focus now was spending the remainder of his time making memories with his "beautiful children and angel at home".

"There are always people who are much worse off than me. This is the way it has all happened so I'm not going to waste my energy sitting here saying 'poor me, why me'."

His partner Rachel Flutey has taken time off from her job at Fat Dog Cafe and Bar, despite being the main earner, so she can be by his side.

"Everyone at Fat Dog have been amazing. When they found out about Dion they told me to take as much time as I needed and then all went to donate blood and put their names on the bone marrow list," she said.

A family friend, who has known Miss Flutey for more than a decade, set up a Givealittle page to help lift the financial burden for the family.

"[Setting up a Givealittle page] was not something either myself or Dion would have thought of doing," Miss Flutey said. "Dion is always the first person to help out - he sees a broken-down car and he'll jump out to give it a push-start. But he will never ask for help himself."

The page was set up nearly two weeks ago and has since raised more than $4000.

"It's been hard for Dion because he feels like he needs to go mow people's lawns or do something to say thank you to all the people who have given so generously."

"It's all been surreal and quite overwhelming for me that people I don't even know have been so kind and loving," Mr Werahiko said.

"I just want people to know we are thankful from the bottom of our hearts. No words can express the love felt out there and I am consider myself so lucky to be given some of that love.

"I hope my children see this generosity and when they see someone in need will jump up and say 'what can I do to help?'"

Mr Werahiko said by sharing his story he hoped more people would consider donating blood and bone marrow.

"All it takes is 15 minutes out of your day to get tested and you could become somebody's hero - you could save a life and it costs you nothing but your time," Miss Flutey added.

She said it was particularly difficult to find bone marrow matches for Maori and Pacific patients.

Fat Dog Cafe and Bar manager Simon Wright said the team did not think twice about doing everything they could for the family.

"Rachel's been a part of the Fat Dog family for about 11 years now, she's one of our own, of course we are going to do everything we can to help her and Dion through this time."

Mr Wright said they had a collection going at the cafe and everyone was trying to do their bit to make sure the family was looked after.

- To donate, pop into Fat Dog Cafe and Bar or go to https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/help4racheldionsabastian

- Rotorua Daily Post

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