The email from Douglas Myers that flashed up on my iPhone on February 21 started off in much the same way as any other from him.
"Dear Jane, I hope you have enjoyed the summer, the weather up here in the North has been phenomenal."
And then: "I have bad news on the scan front. The tumours are all growing, the last lot of chemo didn't work," he wrote. "Unless my oncologist pulls something out of the hat, I won't be around much longer. "
And there it was, said in classic Myers style. No mincing words.The rushed finality of it caused tears to prick behind my eyes. My pen friend was saying goodbye, quickly and precisely. There was no time for anything else.
"My wife and I are rushing back to the UK tomorrow. Talk about cancer causing one to lose control of one's agenda."
Myers' agenda would have been to linger on at his beloved Matauri Bay farm with Barbara, enjoying the last of a Kiwi summer, visits from family and friends, walking the hills of a property that has been in the family for decades.
His agenda would have been to welcome two new grandsons to add to the clutch he already had, work hard at his family businesses, Chiltern International and Downtown Music Publishing, and play hard at the things he loved - travelling and more lately fly fishing.
Just because he was in his late 70s and riddled with cancer, he saw no reason to slow down or feel sorry for himself.
In 2013 Myers received a death sentence. Bowel cancer he thought had been dealt with had spread to five organs. The cancer was too far gone to treat, he was told. Maybe two months, his doctors said.
"For me, I spent three weeks a bit emotional, confronted death. I'm 100 per cent at peace now whatever the outcome. That's allowed me to avoid anger, negativity," he wrote at the time.
Looking back, Myers said good things came out of that shock diagnosis. His family came together from all over the world, essentially to say goodbye. His first wife Stephanie, the mother of his three children, and Myers' sister joined him and his wife, Barbara, staying "super-happily" at their country home in Surrey.
Not accepting he had just weeks to live, Myers engaged one of Britain's top oncologists and cancer-cure researchers, Oxford-educated Professor Justin Stebbing.
Right from the start, Myers knew Stebbing, despite his brilliance and the sophisticated chemotherapy drugs, could not cure him. But if anyone could buy him time, Stebbing could.
At Christmas that year he wrote: "My take is I won't be cured but probably the way it's responding to treatment it'll be contained and okay for a few years."
He was right. His cancer blood markers started dropping and his tumours shrank.
Within a year of starting Stebbing's treatment, Myers was making the most of what he knew were numbered days.
"I'm starting to travel a bit, up on a small yacht cruising round the Lofoten Islands in Norway's Arctic Circle." Or, "I'm returning Dubai-New York, 13 hrs 45 mins, after a very good 10 days' fly fishing in the Southern Seychelles".
One Christmas he and Barbara invited Stebbing, his wife and children to join them at Amanpuri Resort at Phuket, Thailand.
He was a master of the understatement.
This at the end of a European summer three years ago: "We've had an okay summer. Fly fishing on Marlon Brando's island in June, barge trip in Burgundy in July, cruise on the Med with the family in August and now I'm off with three friends to fly fish in Southern Seychelles and four days on business in New York at the end."
The cruise took the Myers family to Corsica, Sardinia and north around the Italian coast to Monaco. Did I know there was a pohutukawa tree in Monaco's park, he asked? The Kiwi connection was never far from his thoughts.
Walking in London
When former All Black Sean Fitzpatrick first arrived in London with his family, Myers took him under his wing, taking him to lunch at the Dorchester and then on a walking tour of London.
The two regularly had lunch together after that.
Years later Fitzpatrick took me on that same Douglas Myers tour - through Hyde Park, Speakers' Corner, past the Serpentine, on to the V & A and the Science Museum across the road.
Myers seemed to want to cram in as much knowledge, culture, art and adventure that he possibly could in the time left. In between running his businesses and corresponding with a wide range of colleagues, including many of the Myers Scholars he had helped, he was always off to exhibitions or shows - a show of 19th century Austrian painters, "like Schiele and Klimt".
"I went to an excellent debate last night, four historians...as to whether Britain should've entered the First World War or not. "
And he fed his mind. "I'm reading a lot of very good books on genes, wars, meaning of life, likelihood of another - problematical. I've had a great year fixing up all the loose ends - family, money and that stuff, so really am ready to go and now finding with all the new medicine I may go on for quite a few years."
He wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, rather he had a dry, wry sense of humour that came through in a note he sent to King's School headmaster Tony Sissons in November last year. Unable to travel to New Zealand to accept an Old Boy of the Year award he instead wrote of his delight at receiving the honour, "1944-51 seems such a while ago, I'm only glad you didn't wait much longer".
He fondly remembered one of his first teachers at the prep school, the "fragrant, young Miss Connolly" and recalled the wit of one of his masters - "a Mr Charters, who greeted me in the first roll call,' A.D. Myers, not much to admire there' - stuck with me throughout my life and it was, I thought, a pretty fair description at the time".
Masters remembered Myers as "a boyish boy, nearly always untidy", and "a happy character who was thoroughly spontaneous".
I sent him a report of the evening, about the speeches, who was there, that the canapes were delicious. And a photo of me grinning by a newly-unveiled portrait of Myers by a British artist.
If he was, at times, critical of New Zealand it was because he thought we were capable of more, of being a better country, a better people. He once said he returned to New Zealand in 1965 after years overseas at university and working and was "blown away as to how, in a small, isolated community, people seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time fighting and criticising each other".
More than 50 years later, with old friends making contact when they heard he was ill, Myers said he had experienced at first hand the "natural decency of Kiwis".
"We don't do ourselves justice. New Zealand is, I think, a very special place and the people too."
Myers had strong opinions, sometimes so forthright they made me cringe.
"The thing with the mad, loony left," he wrote after we discussed the baches on Rangitoto which at one stage DoC wanted demolished, "they are consumed by feelings of self- righteousness, are grossly impractical and deep down are driven by envy and the belief that 'the market' doesn't adequately recognise their clients. I've come to see them as the cause of most of the developed world's problems."
The point is, what's the alternative? Do one's best, take the good things by day and there's lots for all of us.
We used to swap stories about possum and rat trapping - me a volunteer in Glendowie's Churchill Park and Myers a custodian for 40 years on his Far North farm.
Trapping is super cool," he wrote. "I have spent endless hours controlling rats, stoats and possums and thousands of hours on weed control. I always like walking more when there's something to do and look for - like thistles or carrot weed. We have a very hilly but amazingly clean property, really only accessed on foot with a grubber."
Strangely, when the call came that Myers had died last weekend, I was walking on the Glendowie sandspit below "Glen Innes", the Myers stately old family mansion - now owned by the School of Philosophy - perched on a hill above the sea. The last living link with that lovely old house was gone.
And so was someone who had been a great support to me during the fearful early days of breast cancer and the gruelling treatment, impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't been through it.
Myers knew the fear I was facing - a mother of a young son, undergoing treatment for a cancer that was fast moving, aggressive and stage three. He knew I wondered if it would come back, if I would see my boy turn 21.
He admitted he would have been pretty pissed off at my age.
"The point is, what's the alternative? Do one's best, take the good things by day and there's lots for all of us. For those who don't believe in a life beyond this one, 72 virgins or whatever, it does help one to get a grip on the purpose of this which for me is a big time focus on my three kids and it'll be the same for you and your son."
Hang in there, he told me, there are new developments coming up daily.
Sometimes it was just a quick note dashed off from Matauri Bay, enclosing articles about a new generation of "living drugs" bringing hope to cancer sufferers.
"I've just had one of my daughter's out [actually for a wedding] and up here for two days. The weather is at the highest extreme of perfection."
And often, "tight lines" at the end.
He was amused at my descriptions of my normally straight hair growing back like curly Bremworth carpet after chemotherapy left me bald, and when I likened my new hair to Kath's frizzy perm in Kath and Kim.
"For me it's just continuing to diminish in some places [where you'd like it] and growing in others [where you don't]," he wrote back.
Keep your chin up, he joked, "you could live in London and be facing four to five months of super cold, gloomy weather!"
It was those winters Myers escaped by quietly slipping into New Zealand and disappearing up north to Matauri Bay. The few times he stayed in Auckland he favoured a small downtown boutique hotel. The front desk staff there knew his name the moment he walked in.
Farewell to Matauri Bay
When he left Matauri Bay to dash back to London in February, he must have known he would never see it again. He was philosophical about his cancer and the fact it couldn't be cured.
"For me the cancer is like a barnacle on a few organs, nothing has been lopped off, or seemingly damaged, just carrying parasitic types around with one.
"The best thing with this is more and more I don't really care, or rather worry about stuff."
In his farewell email Myers said he hoped my life flourished and wished me and my family well. He wrote that there were few better spots to be than New Zealand.
"I've enjoyed and been uplifted by our communications," he wrote.
Likewise, my pen friend.