John "Cocksy" Cocks lost his battle with kidney cancer this week. He spoke with the Herald's Carolyne Meng-Yee last year about his fight to stay alive.

This story was first published in May 2018.

Much-loved TV builder John "Cocksy" Cocks was told two years ago he had kidney cancer, and was given two years to live.

But he's still fighting.


"I have outdone what they said," he told the Herald on Sunday.

"I still have a lot more to live for, a lot more to fight for.

"Always aim higher — they said I had two years, so I'll say 10. And when it gets to 10, I'll say 20."

Cocksy, star of My House, My Castle, April's Angels, Cocksy's Day Off and Celebrity Treasure Island, marked the anniversary, on Anzac Day, to not only honour our brave soldiers but also the medical teams who helped him with his cancer battle.

"It's a day to remember the war heroes who sacrificed their lives so we could have better lives — and it's thanks to the surgeons, doctors and nurses who helped me out during a difficult time."

Cocksy had radiation for the last time in early January but can't have more as the cancer is too close to the spinal cord, which is damaged.

He is now taking the immune boosting drug Keytruda, which he said had given him a "new lease of life".

He is paying more than $100,000 a year for treatment but wants Pharmac, the government agency that subsidises drugs, to review its funding model.


"Drugs work differently for everyone. My whole thing is: fund the patient not the drug."

Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said it had not received any funding applications for pembrolizumab (the generic name for Keytruda) and the drug was not registered by Medsafe for kidney treatment.

"Pharmac's role is to help New Zealanders live longer and healthier lives by getting the best health benefits from our fixed budget. We make responsible choices about which medicines are funded, taking into account the health needs of all New Zealanders, for many different health conditions."

In the 2016/17 financial year, the gross spend on funded pembrolizumab was $13.8 million for 303 patients with advanced melanoma.

Cocksy is also still taking the controversial water Te Kiri Gold, touted by its makers as a "game changer" for cancer treatment.

"I don't know if it's the water or the drugs that are doing me good. I've put on weight. I'm 82kg, I'm a little, fat, chunky guy now and the doctors are happy."

Independent tests previously commissioned by the Herald on Sunday found Te Kiri Gold failed to meet government safe-drinking guidelines.

"When you have been given two years to live and everyone, your wife, your kids and friends are relying on you to still be around, you give everything a shot.

"I know it's not going to kill me, because something else is already killing me."

A keen surfer and fisherman, the father-of-three spends most of his time at his newly built "dream home" in Tairua.

Cocksy and his wife, Dana, will celebrate their first wedding anniversary in June, and plan to go overseas on holiday later in the year.

"I feel blessed I am still here. I live each day to the fullest and I still have goals.

"I want to be the best husband to Dana and I want my kids to be married off so I can be a granddad."