A valentine message from Kenzie's Gift founder, Nic

A valentine message from Kenzie's Gift founder, Nic name



Hi Everyone,


I hope you have all had a lovely summer and enjoyed getting out and about exploring our beautiful Aotearoa. After a busy and somewhat tumultuous 2021, I took some time out to just be. I didn't head away from home, preferring to chill out, relax and swim at our local beaches over the festive period, though I did indulge in a snorkelling trip to my old dive haunt, the Poor Knights Islands at the end of January. This was a rather special weekend away and I'll share the reason why with you.


Serious illness and grief is something I have lived with now for nearly 17 years. It all started as many of you know, when my beautiful poppet, Kenzie, was diagnosed with a Ewings Sarcoma in March 2005, shortly followed by my own breast cancer diagnosis in July 2005. Tragically Kenzie died at Christmas that year, leaving myself and my gorgeous son, Conor (who was 5 at the time) building our lives around our grief.


The thing that has kept both Conor and me going, has been our drive to live the best lives we can to honour Kenzie's legacy. She got such a short life, not to live ours to the fullest, would be to dishonour her memory. So I have lived mine the way I always have, to the fullest and doing it my way. And I am not in the least bit apologetic for living my life in a way that brings me joy. Finding joy in the darkness of life brings light to the fore.


Giving back to a community that was so very kind to us when we needed it the most is something I have strived to do while juggling single parenthood and holding down a full-time job. Kenzie's Gift is my side hustle ❤️ A side hustle I love, that brings me joy, and also a lot of sleepless nights 😩 You see, it's all about the money. Money is what enables you to do good.


I always try my best to ensure we meet the needs of as many families as we can with the limited resources Kenzie's Gift has. We are not a big charity. We have a small core team dedicated to raising the money to ensure we can provide therapy to those who need it. It takes a lot to raise the $2100 per young person to have 12 sessions with a mental health professional, not to mention the development and delivery of our kits and other resources. But I am so blessed to have a talented team who believe in the mission of Kenzie's Gift- to support the mental health of young Kiwis and their whanua facing serious illness or grief in Aotearoa. I am so indebted to them, for without them, we wouldn't have achieved the reach we have so far.


There is still so much more I want to achieve for Kenzie's Gift, but my own body keeps conspiring against me and is determined to clap out. I was diagnosed with Parkinson's a few years ago, but thanks to medication, you would never know. It's a movement disorder caused by a lack of dopamine in the brain, so a few wee pills of dopamine a day, and I'm all tickety boo.


Then came the kicker at the end of last year with this malfunctioning body of mine. Back when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the medical team discovered I had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a degenerative heart condition. Turns out, it runs in my family, but most people with it live a pretty normal life with a slightly reduced life expectancy. In my family, that is around 70. But no one sent that memo to my heart!


Turns out, mine has gone down the gurglar at a great rate of knots, so much so, I am on the heart transplant list. Given the tragic nature of a donor's heart becoming available, (a family faced with the sudden and tragic death of their loved one), and also donor matching, I do not know when I will receive a new heart. It's a waiting game and the call can come anytime.


Many of us within the Kenzie's Gift community can resonate with the pain the surviving family will go through. It is lifelong; their lives changed forever. So while I feel very privileged to be on the heart transplant list, and do hope a donor match becomes available in time, my heart and soul do feel for all of the donor families who give the most precious gift of all in a time of unspeakable trauma and grief. A huge lifelong gratitude to all of them.


Facing another life-limiting illness has given me pause to reflect on my own life again. I certainly don't want to be done yet. I'd like to see gran-babies in the future (though not just yet Conor 😉), visit the Galapagos Islands, get my book published and grow Kenzie's Gift to a place where we could ensure all those young Kiwis facing serious illness or grief get the mental health support they need.


So while I wait on a new heart this valentines day, I'm sending you all lots of love to fill your hearts. This journey with serious illness or grief challenges our hearts in so many ways, and it is searching and finding those things in life that can keep our hearts beating that matters. For me, it's the love of my son, my daughter and very special friends. The Poor Knights Trip was an early valentine creating memories with wonderful friends before being put on a hearty Auckland lockdown waiting for the call that a new matching heart is available. 


So while I wait, be rest assured that everything over here at Kenzie's Gift is business as usual, and we have a wonderful manager working alongside me now who will step up into my role when I take a couple of months off to look after my new heart.


Lots of love from me to you this valentine.

















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