Less than a year ago Iain Ings was a football coach, a fitness enthusiast, and an avid camper. Today he coaches from the sidelines, uses a crutch to get around, and has swapped the tent for a caravan.
Doctors operated on Iain in June 2013 and again in May 2014, to remove what they thought was a benign tumour near his spine. However, within a month of the second operation, results of biopsies taken from the nerve confirmed the tumour was an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma – cancer.
“When the news came back none of the options were good. They ranged from bad, to really bad, to extremely bad.”
Iain’s wife Sue worked at the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Cancer Society and knew there was a wide range of free support services for people with cancer. She put Iain in touch with Helena Stewart, a Cancer Society liaison nurse.
“Helena came and saw me several times and we had some really good chats. Surgeons tend to be rather blunt and matter-of-fact, but Helena was able to answer my questions and put things into context for me,” said Iain.
Helena also applied for a grant so Iain could receive six free counselling sessions, as well as counselling for Sue and a recommendation for specialist children’s support for 11-year old Marius. Iain is also to resume Cancer Society support group meetings.
“Counselling helped me to put plans in place, and compartmentalise everything so I could deal with it, rather than sweeping it into a corner,” said Iain.
Unable to drive for several months and with Sue working full-time Iain made use of the Cancer Society’s driving service to take him to hospital appointments and scans.
Once back on his feet he went to the Cancer Society’s Lions Lodge for a therapeutic massage. “I was feeling really low and the massage was so relaxing it helped me clear my mind and refocus.”
Iain continued to receive intensive radiotherapy right up until a third operation in October 2014.
“The radiotherapy seems to have done its job and for now I’m cancer-free,” he said.
Iain’s father passed away from cancer when Iain was 17 but the memories of camping, holidays and time together still comfort him in times of sadness.
“Since my diagnosis Sue and I are just trying to build memories for each other and the kids. Material goals are not important anymore.”
In fact, Iain and Sue renewed their wedding vows in November.
Residual nerve damage has left Iain with no feeling in a large part of his right leg but instead of giving up on some of the things he enjoys doing, he now changes the way he does them.
His personal experience of the support provided by the Cancer Society has inspired him to register a team for the 2015 Relay for Life fundraiser. Leaning on his crutch Iain aims to “hobble” round as many laps of the track as possible.
“I’m in a position now where I want to give something back to the Cancer Society for what they’ve done for me.”
Relay For Life is a community event where teams keep their baton moving around a track overnight raising funds for the Cancer Society. This year’s 22-hour relay is being held on March 7 – 8 at a new venue, the Heritage Village at Mystery Creek Events Centre.