2008 was the first year in 8 years that we didn't spend christmas alone. Employment was good to us that year. Money was coming in and so we took a cruise in September down the Mexican Baja, and decided to spend the festive season down under in New Zealand, with all my family.
We spent 6 weeks enjoying the country side and family time, and Los Angeles welcomed us back with open arms mid January 2009, but it came at a price. The industry, that normally slows down during the festive season, was struggling to pick itself up out of it's drunken new years state. Work was hard to come by.
After readjusting back into our Los Angeles reality, we got a phone call from New Zealand. An Aunty who raised me was admitted to hospital after having had trouble breathing. She'd walk a short distance and she'd feel like she'd run a marathon.
I was told it was fluid on the lungs, that she'd be in hospital for a few days while it drained and as it drained, the fluid will be tested.
March 2009. Fluid tested, cancerous cells found.
End of March 2009. Cancer of the womb was diagnosed, chemo treatment would begin in April/May.
I must explain my Aunty.
I had a young mother who had two young children. In Maoridom there's a practise known as whangai, which is to adopt without the legalities of adoption. I was whangai'd to my grandmothers two sisters, who were never married, and raised as an only child.
I knew my parents. I knew my brothers and sister and given the situation, we are all quite close. This Aunty, and her sister who passed years earlier, were my mothers. For 30 years of my life, they were Mum.
We didn't hesitate to move back to New Zealand when given the information about my Aunty's health. We were told in March of the diagnoses and I promised to be home in May 2009 in time for her second round of chemotherapy. After a brief discussion with my husband, we felt the need to come back to New Zealand to be with Aunty during her 8 rounds of chemo.
We packed 10 years of Los Angeles into 30 small boxes and shipped them back via sea freight 2 weeks ahead of us. It took 2 days to get the work visa by way of the New Zealand consulate in Santa Monica. Great service considering my US Permanent Residency took 7 years, but that's another story on it's own. We were going home to see my Aunty through her chemo treatments. We decided that we'd look at heading back to the USA around the time the visa expired. Enough time for her to be well again.
We arrived back in New Zealand on the 15th of May 2009. A well looking Aunty greeting us, hairless, but well. I sat through 3 chemo treatments with her over the next couple of months, 4 blood transfusions and countless hospital and doctors visits.
July 2009, treatments were successful. They cancelled her last chemo treatment and booked her in for surgery to remove whatever wasn't burned away from chemo. She was doing well.
August 11, 2009. My husband was sick this week, but I had to go to Wellington to take my Aunty for surgery in the cancer unit. I was torn between two sick people. Staying home and tending to my husband, or driving my Aunty, my Mum, to Wellington and staying with her for the duration of her surgery stay. I went to Wellington. I stayed a night and drove home (4 hour drive), stayed a few days and drove back to Wellington to pick her up again. She was coming home. She felt great, better than she had been in months.
End of August, things weren't right.
She was admitted to hospital twice in the next couple of weeks. One for having a high temperature and the other because she couldn't move. She was in hospital when her monthly specialist appointment came around. I was with her when they told her the cancer had relapsed and spread rapidly. She took it like a champion and nodded in defeat. I took it upon myself to ask the specialist, away from her, what time frame we were looking at.
3 - 6 months.
That was September 10th, 2009.
She passed away shortly after 9am on September 11th, 2009 in hospital.
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