Tenby Powell has come to grips with death - or the threat of it at least.
The former Tauranga mayor says so in signature blunt fashion when we caught up this week, 20 months after his prostate cancer diagnosis and dramatic exit from the city council.
"If you're asking 'am I afraid of dying?', the answer is 'no'," he says.
"I'm afraid of not doing all I can do in the time I have; family, friends, making a meaningful contribution while I can without getting crazy about it."
Powell is at the stage of his cancer journey where he has had the operation, two months of radiation treatment, and nearly two years of regular blood tests to reaffirm things are, for now, "going alright".
The 62-year-old hopes his health journey will help motivate others to get checked regularly and potentially catch any diagnosis early.
Powell's focus is on keeping fit, physically and mentally. He has been swimming most days and runs when he can. He also has a stash of prostate cancer pamphlets in his car which he regularly hands out.
"When you had a health scare like I did ... I had Stage 4 cancer."
It will be five years before he can hope to be officially declared in the clear. For now, he says he doesn't know how long he has but he is "going to make the most of it".
"Things are good today but you never know when you have a blood test and they aren't going to be good."
Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in New Zealand men with more than 4000 diagnosed each year. More than 700 die from the disease each year, making it the third-highest cause of death after lung and bowel cancers.
Like most prostate cancer patients, Powell's blood tests ensure his PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels stay at a safe level. While some may consider a PSA level of under 4 to be "safe", Powell is adamant any PSA level above 0 needs urgent attention or a second opinion at least.
"My PSA level was 3.6."
He's grateful it has been 0 for some time but today, he's in a grave limbo of waiting for his latest results.
"It's like a shadow of heaviness," he says.
"It's a good time to take stock: what have I done since my operation?"
Plenty, it seems.
Powell is on what he called a "journey of recovery and discovery".
"I'm discovering all the things I wanted to do and never really had the mind space to do."
Those things include scuba diving and gaining his pilot's licence, something he says he would have been too busy before to attempt before as a businessman, board member and mayor.
"Flying is one of those things you really need a clear head for. It's been a good thing for me. When I'm in the plane, there's nothing else going on. That's good for me."
Powell said he's "in the early stages" between 100 and 1000 hours, which was daunting because it will likely include the first times he will have to deal with anything that goes wrong. He studies up on what to do should something awful happen mid-flight.
"Just to be able to do this kind of stuff is cool. I've always wanted to fly."
He's also spending a lot of time with wife Sharon Hunter and their two children, who he's taken on flights as he chalks up his air hours.
But has this shift in life focus waned his aspirations for Tauranga?
"I get asked all of the time to run for mayor again. I'm deeply engaged in the future of this city. You can be deeply engaged without being in a leadership role," he says.
"The only way to make it work is to go in with a team of people, all of whom are electable, with the right skills sets, and who are themselves directly engaged with the community.
"Do it like a central government party. Strategically have policies that are non-political and have a good advisory board."
It's about as clear as Powell can be given his ongoing cancer journey.
He says he still has zero regrets about resigning as mayor when he did - just over a year after taking the reins - and calling for commissioners to take over.
"No mayor wants to hand the city over to commissioners, but in my heart of hearts that day I knew it was the right decision to make."
He has hope. Not just for his own health journey but for the future of Tauranga.
"I live here. I care. I didn't run for mayor for fun, I ran to break the stranglehold and while it was rough and tumble, it worked."
Powell says he believes the commissioners appointed by the Government are "making the right decisions for the city" and he is hopeful for the city he once led.
"We have so much potential here. We could easily be the best city in New Zealand."
Prostate cancer - what to look out for
Often, prostate cancer doesn't cause symptoms, especially in the early stages. It can remain undetected for some time and still not cause symptoms.
If there are symptoms, they may include:
- Feeling the frequent or sudden need to urinate, especially at night
- Finding it difficult to urinate (e.g. trouble starting or not being able to urinate when the feeling is there)
- Discomfort when urinating
- Finding blood in urine or semen
- Pain in lower back, upper thighs or hips
- Bone pain
- Unexpected weight loss
Source - Prostate Cancer Foundation NZ