Big effort for cancer

By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Thursday November 19, 2020

To lose your mother when you are 6 is the stuff of childhood nightmares.

It is one that Ben Mason had to live when his mother, Sonia, developed an aggressive form of breast cancer.

"She fought it for two years, but she passed in 2007. She was 36.

"That’s every 6-year-old’s nightmare.

"I was pretty young at the time. It’s pretty hard to remember what it’s like to have two parents.

"I now have, and always will have, a strong relationship with cancer for as long as I live."

Now, the 19-year-old University of Otago commerce student and New Zealand rowing representative at the 2019 Junior World Rowing Championships is in training for a marathon row around the South Island, in remembrance of his mother, and to raise funds for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.

Mr Mason said rowing around the South Island would be an extremely gruelling and dangerous task, but it was important to him.

"Rowing around the South Island will no doubt have road blocks and seem impossible at times — that’s no different to Mum’s journey with cancer."

He would be accompanied on the trip by a support team in a boat, and to cut down on expenses, he would row ashore each night and pitch a tent.

The row would start in Otago Harbour in January, and he expected it would take about 50 days to complete the circumnavigation of the island.

"One of Mum’s life goals was to live to 80 years old.

"Therefore, every day rowing will be for one of the years Mum was extremely unlucky to have missed out on, while also doing something never done before in her honour.

"I’m also doing this to raise money to potentially save someone else’s mother, but also on a broader scale, to help motivate all breast cancer patients even 1% more for when the tough days come around for them too."

Every year, 3300 New Zealand women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 650 of them die.

Mr Mason hoped to raise about $20,000 to help fund ground-breaking work by some of New Zealand’s top breast cancer researchers, educate people about breast health, and provide free support services for breast cancer patients and their families.

If you would like to support Ben in raising money for the Breast Cancer Foundation please follow this link to donate. All money raised goes directly to the Cancer Foundation.

Thank you to the Otago Daily Times for the use of this article.