Amid worrying and unsettling times, the Herald today launches a new series called Stories of Hope. It's focused on sharing tales of resilient Kiwis who have overcome hardship in a bid to help inspire others during times of darkness. Health reporter Emma Russell reports.

Less than two years ago Laura Bonney's body was riddled with a rare type of blood cancer.

Now, the 24-year-old is cancer-free working as an ED nurse fighting Covid-19 on the frontline at South Auckland's Middlemore Hospital.

"It's really stressful but I am thankful to do what I do. Even if I have a crap day of work I go home knowing I've made a difference to at least one person," Bonney told the Herald.

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The "bubbly go-getter" wants to share her story - today on Bandanna Day which is Canteen's national awareness day - to inspire Kiwis to keep fighting, stay positive and offer help where needed during these unsettling times.

Two years ago Laura Bonney's body was riddled with a rare type of blood cancer, now she's saving lives. Photo / Supplied
Two years ago Laura Bonney's body was riddled with a rare type of blood cancer, now she's saving lives. Photo / Supplied

Bonney - who was born in Tauranga - was working as a nanny in France in 2017 when she started getting severe itchy rashes.

"I'd always been pretty healthy. I do have a go-go personality so I'd often get sick if I was quite run down but nothing serious."

After travelling back to New Zealand, Bonney got tested for scabies, fungal skin infections and even had a biopsy for cancer but all came back clear.

She was able to manage the rashes by taking antihistamine medication but five months down the track, when she was completely her second placement as a nurse at Palmerston North Hospital, her symptoms worsened.

"I remember I woke up one morning covered in sweat which I knew wasn't normal but still cancer never crossed my mind."

As it turned out, the fine print of the biopsy said the test couldn't rule out two rare types of cancer - one being Hodgkin Lymphoma which is what Bonney was officially diagnosed with at 22.

"I just remember walking out of the hospital thinking I have felt sicker before and that wasn't cancer, how can this be."

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Laura (24) is now working as a ED nurse on the frontline fighting Covid-19. Photo / Michael Craig
Laura (24) is now working as a ED nurse on the frontline fighting Covid-19. Photo / Michael Craig

Her cancer had spread from the left side of neck, to her collar bone and near her heart.

Luckily, it was treatable and slow-growing.

"I thought you know what if someone has to get cancer it should be me because I had a good support system of friends and family who visited me and were there for me throughout."

Bonney completed six months of chemotherapy and was determined to keep working three days a week at Middlemore Hospital's research lab, while travelling back and forth from Tauranga.

"I think the hardest part was the fear of waiting for scans to come back and not knowing if the chemo was working."

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But she said it was the people around her that got her through.

Her mum who had beaten breast cancer when Bonney was 10. Her dad whose sister, wife and now daughter had battled cancer. Her older brothers - who were there for via Skype and in person. Her friends - who stood by Bonney when she bravely shaved her head. And the life-long friends she made with young people who were also fighting cancer - one even the same rare type as her.

"I know this sounds odd but when I think back on chemo and that year, I think back on it with a lot of fight and positivity because it was a true show of solidarity all the friends and family I had."

Her message to New Zealanders during the lockdown, was to support the people around you, use your common sense and listen to health professionals and Government who are trying to save lives.

About CanTeen:

• CanTeen supports young New Zealanders aged 13-24 who are either directly affected by cancer as a patient, or indirectly through the diagnosis or bereavement of a sibling or parent.

• CanTeen services include; one-on-one support provided by youth and psychosocial support workers; regular events for young people across the country; phone and Skype counselling; the opportunity for people to connect with other young people affected by cancer online.

• Ten young people in Aotearoa are impacted by a cancer diagnosis every single day.

• Today is CanTeen's annual awareness Bandanna day aimed at signifying the importance of friendship, staying connected and embracing whanaungatanga.

• This year, CanTeen have launched a social media campaign called #BandannasInIsolation encouraging the community to show their support by wearing their bandannas during lockdown.

• To purchase a bandanna or donate visit click here.

CanTeen NZ CEO, Nick Laing said right now, CanTeen needed the community's support more than ever.

"Every day 10 young people in Aotearoa will be impacted by a cancer diagnosis and CanTeen relies on donations to help these young people get their lives back on track."

" Unfortunately we won't be able to have our volunteers hitting the streets to sell bandannas, so we're calling on the community to show their support by buying a bandanna online or by making a donation at canteen.org.nz"

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website