What CanTeen and #NZSecretSanta mean to me – guest post

We’re lucky enough to have another guest post from CanTeen – this time from Matt, a member of CanTeen. He’s here to share his story and what he thinks of #NZSecretSanta supporting CanTeen. Take it away Matt.

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Me at the 2015 CanTeen Christmas party.

Kia ora folks, my name is Matt. I’m a member of CanTeen and I’ve been invited to share a little about ourselves and what this years #nzsecretsanta means to us.

You may be aware that the team at NZ Post have decided to make us the lucky recipients of this years BSGS (assuming there aren’t too many bad santas out there!) and some of you may have even been awesome enough to send us a gift yourselves! We reckon you should know therefore what we’re all about at CanTeen.

In case you’ve never heard of us CanTeen is an organisation which supports young people living with cancer. Thats people aged 13-24 and includes patients, siblings of patients, bereaved siblings and offspring (people whose parents have cancer). I’ve been a part of this fantastic family for over three and a half years now so I know much about what this all involves but lately I’ve been thinking a bit about what it’d be like on the outside looking in- what you guys see. And I think what is often seen is the ‘ABC’s of CanTeen’.

In my head these ABC’s are adolescents, bandannas and camps. Is this what comes to mind when you think of CanTeen? No doubt that’s all part of what we do and we can do them all well but to me there is a whole alphabet to the world of CanTeen (don’t worry, I won’t be so inane as to assign something to each letter!). What are some of these other things? Well, we of course offer important support in hospital, we run programmes that help our members deal with grief, relationships etc, we take member experiences and with those advocate to government, we offer counselling, peer support, leadership development and loads of fun times. Although that’s far from an exhaustive list, point is that supporting us helps support a tonne of really important work- and I can vouch for that importance because I’ve experienced it personally.

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Me with my sister, Hayley.

And what of myself? I’m 22 and a bereaved sibling member. My sister Hayley was diagnosed with cancer just before the beginning of 2013 and together we experienced much of CanTeen’s support in hospital, through catch ups and at camp. In Hayley’s case cancer wasn’t to be overcome and she died in April 2014. Since then I’ve seen ever so much more of CanTeen. I’ve grieved a lot and grown a lot and they’ve been by my side the whole way.

There is a quote from our Queen which really resonates with me- “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

I had it hard for a while after Hayley died, I was very close to her and for months I’d cry myself to sleep. Since then I’ve learnt that the grief I experienced came from my love for her and I am convinced that the love I was able to share with her makes it all worth it. And that is what life’s all about- being kind to one another and sharing our love.

I must confess my prior ignorance to the #nzsecretsanta phenomenon but reading the blog and browsing the hashtag I see that in the community that you’ve all created. This idea is such a bright spark and it is amazing seeing the joy people have in giving and doing something kind for a stranger. In some cases that stranger may be people like me, members of CanTeen, and knowing that we have that support and backing from you means a great deal- more than the material benefit ever will (and you can bet we appreciate every bit of that we can get too!).

With that I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone involved in NZ Secret Santa- the sponsors, the team at NZ Post and of course the thousands of you- you’ve already brought a few smiles to my face today and there is huge potential for many more!

Merry Christmas and thank you to all- you guys rock. xx

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What CanTeen and #NZSecretSanta mean to me – guest post

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