As I was pacing the lino waiting on the Air New Zealand check in counter at LAX airport to check my bag in for my flight back home, I noticed a couple sitting at a bar leaner pouring over menus, guarding a trolley full of luggage. Kiwis often stand out like a sore thumb when you are travelling and Scott and Alana were no exception. They too had arrived at the airport hours before they were really required to be there, and were like me were looking for somewhere to dump their luggage. I know now that the baggage drop for Air NZ flights only opens 4 hours before the scheduled departure time of your flight so don’t get caught thinking you will be able to dump your bag and run if you happen to arrive there 10 hours early because of circumstance. There are no storage lockers available at the airport that I could find for hire either so be prepared to be on bag watch for a number of hours before ditching your luggage.
They were as frustrated as I was to be honest that there was nowhere to check the baggage into – more so in fact as Scott wasted no time in telling us he couldn’t wait to get out of America. I picked they were newly weds, the way they looked at each other and when I saw Scott playing with the shiny ring on his left hand. They confessed to being on the last leg of a month long honeymoon in the USA following their nuptials in February. Scott made no bones about the fact that he would be glad to see the back of the place as events over recent weeks had left a bad taste in his mouth as a tourist. He’d had a gutsful of having to tip everybody, had spent too much time in airports waiting for connections to his next destination and being ripped off. They had even embarked on a phantom trip to the Grand Canyon in a rental car only to drive 150 miles before turning around and heading back to Vegas without seeing a glimpse of the place. They had spent a fair wad of hard earned cash and had a few feck ups but they were still smiling – sort of!
Whist the honeymoon had gone well, the setbacks they had suffered along the way had confirmed to Scott that there is no place at all like "Godzone" back here in Kiwi land . Scott is originally from Zimbabwe and has worked throughout the world in many places as a chef so is no stranger to traveling. There was still a twinge of that central African accent if you listen really carefully.He joined the NZ Police seven years ago and is now one of our boys in blue, out there on the beat in Napier. Alana joined the police force 4 years ago and so they juggle their careers with raising a son.
Any wedding is celebration for a couple and their respective families, but hearing the story of what these two lovebirds have endured and overcome over the last couple of years was inspirational and a testament towards their character and tenacity. You see they have been to hell and back over the last while and they are here to tell the tale, in love and looking forward to an incredible future together.
A couple of years back Scott discovered a pea sized lump in the breast of his then 28 year old partner. Investigations were to confirm Alana indeed had stage two breast cancer. Breast cancer is unusual in women aged in their 20's - but the devastating diagnosis had come only three years after Alana had survived a stage two melanoma on the inside of her ankle.
A single mastectomy followed by 18 weeks of grueling chemotherapy ensued. The long blonde hair that had been Alana's pride and joy, fell out in handfuls and she said it all became so unimportant as she her body took a hammering from those cancer killing drugs. Scott told me when she found out it was cancer she told him to go, that she wasn’t going to hold him to staying and as he showed me the photos of her lying in her bed weak as a kitten cuddling their German Shepherd dog, he said it never entered his head. He pinches himself regularly to remind himself how a boy from Zimbabwe managed to catch such a beautiful kiwi. She said the treatment was horrid, but the knowledge that she had a young son that she wanted to see grow into a young man and a half full glass attitude only strengthened her resolve to get well. She continued to work as a cop behind the desk over the course of her treatment following that completion of that course of chemo Scott popped the question and she said yes.
As a precaution Alana fought to have her second breast removed the following year and has subsequently had that operation. She has a new pair of boobs, a reconstructed pair that I expect looked fabulous when she donned that wedding gown recently to enjoy a day that once would have seemed like a dream she may not have got to experience. At 30 years of age now has taken some proactive steps to ensure that her prognosis remains good. She won’t get the all clear for another five years and a daily dose of Tamoxifen is a reminder of the near miss that she has had. They don’t drink anymore, they eat clean and live a healthy life style. I was in awe of the pride in Scotts voice when he spoke about the journey that his beautiful wife had walked over the last three years and the love they shared.
They don’t let the grass grow under their feet. Over the last year the pair of them have built a new house in Napier, buried Scotts mother following an unexpected death, and embarked on a new life together with 9 year old Rylinn following their marriage. There is always a challenge to face in the lives of this pair and they have proved they are up to it.
Alana message is simple. As women, we need to take responsibility for our health. Cancer is not prejudiced and it doesn’t give a bugger about your age, your circumstances or how beautiful you may or may not be. It’s a thief that snuffs the life out of so many of our loved ones so self-examination and diligence is called for as part of a woman’s self-care. She says she has learned you can’t take life for granted and that the love and support of friends and family in your life is so important to your health and well being.
I wish both these cops from the Hawkes Bay so much luck , love and good health as they walk towards their future together. Their story inspired me and it has been a privilege to be able to share it and a reminder that your health really is your wealth.