It is ironic that Diary of A Wimpy Kid is one of Max Necklen's favourite books.
The 11-year-old is anything but a wimpy kid after beating leukaemia - and he has hundreds of cancer beads to prove it.
The Otumoetai Intermediate student was only a toddler in the terrible twos when he was diagnosed.
His mum and dad, Alicia and Dan, were devastated when they were given the diagnosis no parent wanted to hear.
"[We were told], 'so Max has got leukaemia' and we were like, 'what?'" Alicia said.
"It was a total shock."
She never suspected cancer when Max first got sick in 2010.
Her lively boy became lethargic and pale. He would often vomit after eating and wake up in the middle of the night screaming with leg pains.
"It was just unexplainable."
Doctors initially blamed a virus but a month later he was still sick so in June Alicia asked for a blood test, thinking he was iron-deficient.
Woman's unlikely reaction to cancer diagnosis
At 8.30 that night, the doctor called and said the test results were back and Max needed to go to the hospital immediately.
Alicia asked if it could wait until morning.
"They said, 'no, you need to take him now. The hospital is ready and waiting for you'."
Alicia stayed home with 6-month-old Finn while Dan drove Max to Tauranga Hospital where he was immediately given a blood transfusion.
The family still had no idea what was wrong when they drove Max to Starship the next day.
In Auckland the first doctor the family saw broke the bad news, dropping the word like a bomb: Cancer.
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, one of the most common childhood cancers.
The good news was that it was treatable.
Max was in treatment, including chemotherapy, for three years. He remembered little of it, but fondly recalled the family's stays at Ronald McDonald House.
The treatment went relatively smoothly, aside from a wobbly moment towards the end in August 2013.
Alicia was 36 weeks pregnant with the family's youngest, Isaac, when Max registered a false positive for a critical test determining whether leukaemia had spread to his spinal fluid.
The family was on the edge for a month until the next test, which came back clear just days before Isaac was born.
"It was probably the worst month of the whole treatment," Alicia said.
Six years on and still in the clear, Max was enjoying a relatively normal childhood and loved reading and mountain biking.
The occasional worry popped up but his parents were teaching Max to be resilient.
"We say: "You've beaten leukaemia, now what else can you do?"
Alicia said she was grateful for the journey, despite its difficulties, and it had changed their approach to life "100 per cent".
"Now that we're through it, it's really helped us see the positive in everything and take each day as it comes.
"Little things don't worry me personally as much as they used to."
She was also grateful for Camp Quality - a non-profit organisation that runs camps for children living with cancer at no cost to families - for the joy the camps gave Max during his recovery and remission.
Camp Quality event manager Jo Sherwood has been involved for 20 years and said the camps gave the kids the opportunity to just have fun and be surrounded by peers who were in a similar boat.
Tauranga-based paediatrician John Fleming was also involved with the charity and said it was "heartwarming" to see how the camps gave children the opportunity to escape frequent hospitalisation and "heavy-duty chemo".
- Visit the Camp 4 Camp Quality website to donate during the charity's fundraising drive this month.
Leukaemia in New Zealand
- Leukaemia is a blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow
- It is the fifth most common childhood cancer
- About 33 children a year are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic
- Symptoms include anaemia, increased bleeding or bruising, frequent infections and bone pain
- The case of blood cancers is unknown
- Treatment can include chemotherapy, radiotherapy or stem cell transplant.
Source: Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand