Despite a harrowing six-year battle caring for seriously ill son, ‘amazing’ family still help others.

At 15 Jock Davies is, like many other Kiwi teens his age, cricket and rugby-mad.

But unlike most he has spent the last six years waging a life and death struggle against a rare form of leukemia, an ordeal that has taken him and his family - Mum Sarah, Dad Peter and brothers George (18) and Tom (16) - time and again to the limit.

Jock's experience has been harrowing. He has endured countless months away in hospital in Christchurch and Auckland (including more than six months in isolation), hundreds of chemotherapy treatments, blood transfusions and, last year, a bone marrow transplant.

"There were two or three days last year after the transplant when we weren't sure if it would work – he was in intensive care, he was very sick," says Sarah.


Thankfully the transplant appears to have been successful. Jock is back at home, on the road to recovery, playing cricket and getting ready for the coming rugby season. Yet talking about his ordeal still brings his mum close to tears.

"It's been a pretty hard and at times very scary," she says. "After everything he'd been through, we always knew he would be going down the bone marrow transplant road. It (the transplant) was a huge moment and took things to another level altogether."

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The family, widely regarded as pillars of the community in the small west Otago township of Tapanui where Sarah and Peter have lived for 18 years, got some good news this week when they received an ASB Good as Gold Award.

ASB general manager of corporate affairs, Christian May, says this is a family overflowing with courage and determination.

"Despite all they're dealing with they still generously find time to stay connected and be a valuable part of their local community. This recognition is well deserved and we wish them all the very best," he says.

The bank has given them $10,000 which they plan to use for a family holiday to attend the New Zealand-Australia Boxing Day cricket test in Melbourne, part of the Black Caps tour across the Tasman next summer.

"We've missed out on a few holidays because of Jock's illness and so we're going to Australia for nine days to watch the cricket," says Davies. "The boys are all cricket-mad, we all love cricket."

The family was nominated by a long-time Tapanui identity, Heather Wink, who says they "have been given a truly undeserved raw deal in life. Jock has endured many days in total isolation along with terrible vomiting, lack of energy, sleepiness and all the side effects of what his body was going through in its fight against this terrible disease."

Yet through all of this, she says, Sarah and Peter have continued to be involved in community life.

"They are one of the first to put their hand up to volunteer to help, particularly with the youth of the area," says Wink. "They never allow things to get on top of them, always have a smile, a wave, a genuine hello and an interest in others wellbeing."

Their record is proof. Peter is deputy principal of Blue Mountain College, coach of the school's under 15 rugby team and colts cricket team, is treasurer of Eastern Southland Cricket, serves on the West Otago Swimming Pool committee and is a committee member at the Tapanui rugby club.

Sarah, despite being Jock's main caregiver throughout his illness and being forced to spend long periods away from home at his hospital bedside, has found time to deliver Meals on Wheels, organise the Child Cancer Foundation's Wig Wednesday fundraiser in the area and sit on the college tour fund-raising committee.

Sarah says she likes to be busy and is enjoying being back doing these things. "We feel very blessed to be part of the community; they were amazing, they kept an eye on our other two boys, cleaned the house, things like that while we were away in hospital.

"But it was hard being apart," she says. "George and Tom are young too and we tried to keep things as normal as possible for them."

Sarah says the whole experience has made Jock "old before his time. He is definitely mature for his age because of what he's been through.

"He spent almost a year in Christchurch Hospital after being diagnosed in 2013," says Sarah. During this time he had 80 chemotherapy treatments, 52 blood transfusions, 42 bone marrow aspirations (a process by which small amounts of bone marrow liquid are extracted by needle) and spent 49 days in isolation.

For the following two years he was cancer free but in February last year he was back in hospital after a regular blood test showed his illness had relapsed. Four months of further chemotherapy treatment followed before Jock was transferred to Starship Hospital in Auckland where he remained for about three months for his bone marrow transplant.

"It's now been 217 days since the transplant (to the day Sarah gave this interview) but it is going to take another year before his blood will get to the level he needs it at. In the meantime we see the specialist every month."

Sarah says even though Jock did get down at times and suffered through some low ebbs, he now doesn't waste a day. "He's back playing cricket and getting fit for rugby – he's made us all as a family realise you've got to enjoy life."