Mike Gunter had just completed his pilot training and was about to jet off to Hawaii to start work when a brain cancer diagnosis at 21 put everything on hold.

Now nearly five years later, he says it's thanks to friends and family, who rallied together to crowdfund his treatment, that he's in remission and pursuing an apprenticeship as an aircraft engineer.

And in a devastating coincidence, the life changing news of his diagnosis came on the anniversary of his brother's death.

"I was about to turn 21 and I was living in Queenstown when I started getting migraines," he said.

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Gunter had surgery to have a brain tumour removed, and two weeks after surgery was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Instead of heading to America to start his new job as a pilot, he had to go to Christchurch for treatment immediately.

"They basically told me I was gonna die with or without the treatment," Gunter shared.

"We heard about this place in Germany that was doing treatment that offered an increased chance of survival."

So his friends and family sprung to action, setting up a Givealittle page that raised more than $140,000 for the treatment Gunter needed.

"So many people gave so much, from friends to randoms," Gunter shared.

Mike says without generous donations from family and friends, he wouldn't have been able to get the treatment he needed. Photo / Supplied
Mike says without generous donations from family and friends, he wouldn't have been able to get the treatment he needed. Photo / Supplied

"There's been a massive amount of support.

"Especially from my rugby club Marist in Greymouth, they did some fundraisers and they funded a fair chunk of the treatment."

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Gunter spent about six months in Germany undertaking the treatment, called dendritic cell immunotherapy, and is now incredibly cancer-free.

However, at this stage Gunter still returns to Germany twice a year for preventative treatment.

CanTeen, a support service for young people dealing with cancer, first contacted Gunter when he was in hospital in Christchurch undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.

"They were really great support, they'd come and take me out for coffees cause I was pretty bored.

"Once I got back from Germany I got involved again and met so many amazing people with similar experiences.

"Some had it a lot tougher than I did."

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After being involved in supporter roles at CanTeen, Gunter is now on the board of directors, which always has a number of CanTeen members as part of its staff.

"Before I was diagnosed I was a qualified pilot and I really wanted to stay in aviation. I'd done some time labouring as an engineer to save for my pilot's licence so I thought I'd put the two and two together."

Gunter is now on his second year of a five-year aircraft engineering apprenticeship.

"I thought I'd put my pilot knowledge to good use."

CanTeen's psychosocial manager Lucy Barnes says it's important to keep donating to CanTeen. Photo / Supplied
CanTeen's psychosocial manager Lucy Barnes says it's important to keep donating to CanTeen. Photo / Supplied

CanTeen has been one of many charities that have been hit hard financially by the Covid-19 crisis.

CanTeen's psychosocial manager Lucy Barnes says CanTeen's services had to adapt quickly.

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"CanTeen services had to move online to provide therapeutic support services on Zoom.

"There's been an impact on fundraising and on our community events, our Bandanna Day and street appeal."

CanTeen's biggest fundraiser of the year is Bandanna Day, but due to coronavirus restrictions, they weren't able to get out and fundraise this year.

Barnes says it's important that people continue to donate as the charity provides essential therapeutic services for young people.

CanTeen doesn't receive any fixed government funding, so 100 per cent of their income comes from donations. Barnes says donations dropped somewhat during lockdown, but that it was great to see people still donating.

She says they've had great feedback about their online events, with more people able to attend online.

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"In the future we'll stick with a mixture of online and face-to-face," Barnes shared.

To find out more about the work CanTeen is doing, visit their website here.