Kenzie simply loved life. A thrill-seeker from day one she relentlessly pursued fun and boisterous activities. Whether scaling bookcases to reach a forbidden delight or fences to reach a forbidden territory her mischievous spirit and angelic looks ensured she was a favourite with everyone who met her.
Yet as strong willed and independent as Kenzie was, her sensitive heart could not long bear to be parted from her beloved māmā, Nic, or Connor, the brother she adored. During those first happy years no one could have predicted the rollercoaster that lay ahead for this whānau and how wholly and unexpectedly their lives would be torn apart in April 2005.
Kenzie was just 2 years and 5 months old when her battle for survival began. After weeks of pain, frustration, doctors visits and eventual admission into Starship Hospital she was finally diagnosed with a paraspinal cancerous tumour a tumour that would eventually leave her paralysed. Nic describes the moment of diagnosis as one she will remember forever: "Yes I knew there was something seriously wrong with my baby. But now I had been told they had at last found something. I wanted to take it all back. I wanted my life back as it was. But it was too late, and into surgery toddler Kenzie must go."
From major surgery Kenzie moved quickly to aggressive chemotherapy, a treatment that would push most adults to the brink. It was not long before her little body was bordering on its limit. But as disturbing to Nic as the physical side of Kenzie's disease was the emotional one. Kenzie had been in pain. She was still in pain. Her body could no longer do the things it used to. She was away from the only home she knew. She was away from her brother and the cat she loved to tease. She was in a strange bed, surrounded by strange people, equipment, smells and noises. Her spirit was damaged. Kenzie had spent the past month unable to make herself understood, experiencing things most adults could not bear resulting in her mind creating extreme fears and ghoulish fantasies about the world around her. These manifested themselves in tantrums and an intrinsic distrust of everyone. With the right sort of help and through the universal language of play Kenzies strength of spirit began to shine through and the little girl of old started to emerge from the tiny frightened cocoon that had enveloped her.
Despite this incredible, emotional progress and although Kenzie eventually won her battle with cancer she did not survive. Her little body was pushed further than it could manage and on the 29th December 2005 Kenzie died from multiple organ failure. Yet through all this tragedy there comes hope. During her short life Kenzie endured more than most of us wish to comprehend, yet she learnt to live, to love and to laugh again. Through Nic's training as a play specialist she was able to help reignite Kenzie's spirit. To ensure Kenzie's lasting legacy we want to give other families this opportunity to nurture and promote the emotional wellbeing and good mental health of tamariki and mātātahi and their families affected by cancer.