The Bream Bay community was shocked earlier this month when they learned the young woman with the friendly smile and kind manner who helped them or their families through numerous health issues is now herself battling illness.
Hollie McIntyre from Ruakākā's Orrs Unichem Pharmacy was recently diagnosed with stage four metastatic triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive disease with a poor prognosis.
Now the Bream Bay community is rallying around the 30-year-old, repaying her for the support she has given them over the years.
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It began with a Givealittle page set up by her partner Andrew Welsh's aunt, Melanie Shread, who decided to raise some money while running the Auckland half-marathon.
She wanted to help McIntyre and Welsh with all the costs associated with facing down the disease, including self-funded life-prolonging treatment, and has so far raised more than $17,000.
A group of friends and supporters walked Whangārei's Pink Loop event, raising money for the Breast Cancer Support Northland Trust in her name, and the Orrs Pharmacy Ruakākā team donned breast cancer awareness shirts for Bream Bay College's Tide's Out Fun Run.
At Labour weekend McIntyre and Welsh's gym, BHP Functional Fitness, held a fitness fundraiser, and next up are two Women's Self Defence classes called "Fight for Hollie".
One is at Waipū's Coronation Hall on November 6, 7pm-8pm and another at Whangārei Girls' High School on November 12, 7pm-8pm. For more information about the classes phone 021 2563 8380.
A group of Northland businesswomen - Kirsty Halliday (Kirsty Joy Photography) Katy Jane Taylor (Makeup by Katy Jane), Jocelyn Lenssen (Bank Street Bridal), and Susi Liddington (Liddington Gardens Waipapa) – joined forces for a photo shoot.
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"We were able to make Hollie feel like the queen she is for a day and keep that beautiful smile of hers on her face for a little longer," said Halliday. "Hollie is a very special soul."
McIntyre is determined to stay positive and to keep busy for as long as she can. She plans to share her progress through Facebook posts, photos and talking to anyone who wants to know.
"I want to show people what it's really like," she said. "I'm not keeping anything a secret. I want to share it all, to raise awareness."
Early detection and diagnosis is key, she says, and she believes young women should have the option of free mammograms.
The warmth of the community's feeling toward McIntyre is evident as we chat in a local cafe – almost every person who enters has a smile and word for her and as soon as I get up to leave, all the cafe-goers at nearby tables descend on her with hugs.
McIntyre says the wave of community support has helped her through a series of setbacks.
"When I first got told I had cancer I was shocked, but I thought okay, what do I need to do to get through this?"
She and Welsh, thinking ahead to a future beyond cancer, decided to start IVF treatment in Auckland.
"The next week we found it was terminal, and I couldn't do IVF anymore."
McIntyre loves her job but has cut her hours back to cope with the demands of multiple medical appointments and fatigue. She was heavily involved in planning the Orrs Pharmacy 75th anniversary celebrations in November and organising summer stock.
"Now I won't even get to sell a lot of it, because I'll hardly be there."
She wants to continue with the anniversary and Christmas preparations, taking things home to work on to keep herself busy when she has enough energy.
"I can't plan ahead too much."
The financial pressure of dealing with the disease plus working fewer hours is almost overwhelming, and the couple discovered they aren't eligible for any government financial assistance.
They moved to a new house, to be closer to family, the same day McIntyre had her first chemo treatment. She went for a walk a few days later and found herself almost too exhausted to make it home.
"It made me realise I have to be careful. I need to make sure I keep up my strength."
She has enjoyed reading the comments on Facebook and the Givealittle page, from people she has helped at the pharmacy through the years.
"You don't really realise how much people appreciate the effort."
McIntyre was surprised by the response to the fundraising.
"Just the sheer amount, I wasn't expecting anything."
To help Hollie, search her name at givealittle.co.nz to donate, or leave a donation at Orrs Unichem Pharmacy Ruakākā.
Young Bream Bay weightlifters Shay Aull and Jayde van Gelder were weightlifting code winners at the ASB Northland Secondary Schools Sports Awards last week.
Aull was also one of four students to win a NorthTec Emerging Talent award.
Coach Toni Sturt says Aull and van Gelder both won gold at the national secondary schools championships held in Upper Hutt last month.
"Shay is now champion in his class two years running."
Sturt says she and partner Caleb Symon are closing their gym where the students train, to travel the country.
"The evening was a great and emotional event, but I'm so glad to see this sport flourish in Ruakākā over the last few years," she said.
"The students who come into the gym are all very hard working and they'll always be my babies, even if they're already taller than me."
Bream Bay Ballet's end of year dance extravaganza is on this Saturday, with two performances of "Charlie and the Bream Bay Chocolate Factory" at 10.30am and 2pm at the Bream Bay College auditorium. Door sale tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children, under-5s are free.
Vote to win a boat for Waipū
Waipū Cove Surf Life Saving Club is one of four finalists in a national competition to win a new IRB worth $25,000 from BP. Help them out by voting at votetheboat.co.nz – you can vote every day until the competition closes on November 8.
All souls service
Come along to St Paul's Anglican Church on Karawai St, Ruakākā this Sunday for their All Souls Service of Remembrance. Light a candle and remember those you have loved and lost. All are welcome to join the service at 9.30am and invited for a cup of tea afterwards.
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