Rotorua Daily Post Year In Review takes a look back at 2018 and republishes some of the top stories of the year. This one was originally published in October and was one of the most-read stories on rotoruadailypost.co.nz.
Charles Sturt is breaking his silence to reveal he has just "won the fight of his life" after being diagnosed with cancer and given months to live.
It's been a harrowing time for the long-time Rotorua district councillor, who has been getting radiation treatment for cancer that quickly ravaged his body and ate away part of his shoulder.
"I have been a fighter all my life and I was determined to fight this."
He's now been given a clean bill of health, his tumours have shrunk and he's looking forward to getting back to his old self - one that is 34kg lighter from the effects of the treatment.
"I took the chance on the treatment that it would be successful. That's why it's time to come out and share my story because it has been successful. I am a very lucky person. I am not naive though, it could reappear at any minute."
Sturt said he's not after sympathy because his fight made him realise just how many locals had gone through, or were still going through, the same battle.
The journey began in February when he had a sore shoulder. He eventually went to the doctor and got some anti-inflammatories.
A couple of days later his doctor called him back and said she didn't think it was a frozen shoulder as first suspected, and wanted Sturt to have some x-rays and tests.
Within days, on Friday, December 23, he got a phone call to say he needed to see his doctor to discuss the results. Sturt was oblivious to the news he was about to be given.
He was told he had cancer. It had started in his kidney, gone up his spinal column - narrowly missing his spinal chord by centimetres - and into the right side of his neck before veering across to the left side of his neck and into his left shoulder - eating his shoulder flesh and bone.
"I burst into tears. They said if you don't get treatment, I would be gone by Christmas ... Then the fight began."
He underwent six weeks of intense radiation, followed by surgery to help heal his shoulder. He has a carbon fibre rod in the top of his shoulder down his arm that's encouraging the bone and arm to grow back.
Even telling the Rotorua Daily Post this week about his battle, Sturt wells up with tears frequently thinking of his fate, his love for his family and his support from council and work colleagues.
He knew he had to fight for his beloved and devoted wife, Denise, and their three children - Elizabeth, William and Cameron.
His fight was buoyed by a determination to meet a new grandchild who was born in September.
"My wife and kids and grandkids are everything. That's why I said I would fight. I'm not out for sympathy or praise, I'm telling my story to celebrate. And when you find the right person for you, when you say forever until death do us part, it is so true. Denise has worked her guts out for me and our kids and I must pay tribute to her," he said through tears.
He let mayor Steve Chadwick, chief executive Geoff Williams and close friends and council colleagues deputy mayor Dave Donaldson and councillor Trevor Maxwell know.
He was also given great support from Steve Lovegrove and the team at Professionals McDowell Real Estate, he said.
Apart from those colleagues and some close friends, Sturt remained quiet about his illness.
While he backed off from some public appearances, he attended Harcourts Dancing with the Stars at the end of July.
"Someone came up to me and whacked me on the shoulder and said 'how are you Charles?'. They weren't to know."
It was discovered that night the rod in his shoulder popped out, which went on to become infected and took weeks to heal.
Another setback was finding another tumour on his hip. But it had now disappeared with "one zap" of radiation.
He is now on stabilising medication and has to have blood tests every month and an MRI every three months.
Alongside his family, Sturt said it was his love of gardening - specifically cultivating daffodil bulbs for show - and his council work that kept him going.
"I'm going to stand again. I love my council work and I think I still have a lot to give. I have served under four mayors and Steve is by far the best."
Chadwick said she had a clinical eye and admitted to being worried for Sturt.
But she said he now had his "mojo" back and she couldn't be happier.
She said Sturt ruled with a lot of passion and wasn't a professional politician in it for the pay packet.
"He loves Rotorua and that's what I love about him."
Chadwick refers to him as her Minister of Sports and Recreation and he was missed during his brief absence.
"He's the type of person who will say things that we can't say. As mayor you have to have some dignity and mana and sometimes you need someone to say things everyone else is strongly feeling."
Lovegrove said the Sturts got through the ordeal with teamwork.
He said Denise handled all the real estate work while Charles put what energy he had into his council work.
"You can't deny the commitment that man has to this city, his family and his business ... As a team they held up both roles. They kept a lot (of what they were going through) to themselves but I just admire them so much for the strength they have."
Meanwhile, Sturt said he was particularly chuffed to be weighing a lot lighter and buying a new wardrobe.
"I feel fantastic ... I have been given a clean bill of health in terms of no more tumours and I am on maintenance. I just want the people to know that life is normal."
Charles Sturt facts
* Age 62
* Married to Denise
* Three children, Elizabeth, William and Cameron
* Three grandchildren and one on the way
* Real estate agent with Denise at Professionals McDowell Real Estate
* Ngongotaha County Borough Council member 1982/83
* District councillor from 1989-96, then 1996 to today (when Denise nearly died giving birth to Cameron he resigned, forcing a byelection which was won by Steve Chadwick).
* Survived prostate cancer in 2013
* Former race horse breeder/owner
* Former owner of Dianne Diary and Koolens Bakehouse
* Member of several sporting groups and school boards