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Hawke's Bay cancer fight - Sonya Healey is smashing it

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The 35-year-old Hastings woman is in Wellington undergoing eight weeks of aggressive treatment for her cancer; but her eyes are facing firmly forward. "This will not beat me. I’m here to smash this cancer with positivity."

Even the nausea that comes with the treatment is a bonus, she says. "I think to myself: If I’m feeling this bad, the cancer must be feeling really rubbish."

Her treatment takes up one full day a week, and then 15 minutes a day on the other four days of the week. "I get Saturday and Sunday off."

So that leaves time in her day that she is determined to fill. Her latest new pastimes have included learning line-dancing; and now she is cheerfully rounding up others staying in the Margaret Stewart hospital accommodation for cancer patients, and putting them through their paces. And all with her irrepressible laughter that punctuates almost every sentence.

Another more serious mission is to go very public with her story, to encourage other women to have their smear tests. "Have your smear tests, listen to your body, and talk to your doctor. And, actually, it’s not all about women; make sure your male partners and friends have their prostate checked as well. Have the conversations. Putting off those life-saving tests that may be a bit uncomfortable for 10 mins can be deadly."

She had been experiencing pain but had put off going to her doctor and hadn’t had a smear test for five years. "I was a busy mum running a business and working part-time for another company; and getting a smear test done is not anyone’s favourite way of spending your down time.

"Eventually I went to the doctor for something else. I mentioned the pain I was getting and she insisted on a smear test. In my case though, it was actually my symptoms that alerted her and she sent me to the hospital for a biopsy.

"Holey moley, from getting the diagnosis to getting treatment was about three weeks - but it felt like six months."

But now she is underway; three weeks down and five to go. "I think back to before I had my first baby, says the mother of two. "No-one can really explain what it’s going to be like; you can’t know until you have one.

"Cancer is the same; it is impossible to know how you will react until you have it. For me, I’m determined to beat this and turn it into the best experience I can. I’m here to smash this cancer."

She has learnt to do as she is told, she says. Not taking her pain and nausea mediation when she is told to can have pretty mean consequences. "I give myself a pep talk: You’re not a doctor Sonya; they’ve done lots of training and have lots of experience, so do what they say."

For Sonya, laughter is another medicine. "You really do have to laugh, otherwise you land up crying."

Her partner and mum are looking after the kids, her team at Massage Hawke’s Bay has the business under control, and her colleagues at Jade Promotions are in the front line of support. "I am really lucky to have such fantastic support - they are all incredible; this would be so much harder without them. I really can’t wait to see everyone on the other side of this."

She also gives a ‘shout out’ on social media to the medical personnel that are with her on the cancer journey, and follows it up with another reminder to women. "I am so thankful this cervical cancer has been found, and for the fast action from HBDHB as well as Welly DHB; GET YOUR SMEARS DONE LADIES!!!"

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