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Bucket list fulfilled

Sylvia Lagah, Wairarapa Helicopters pilot Dave Bramwell-Cooke holding Stuart Wardle’s ashes, Ralph Wardle, Diane D’Ath, and Lesley Wardle. PHOTO/SUPPLIED



Stuart Wardle was supposed to take to the skies in a helicopter when he won his cancer battle.

But this never happened.

The Kuranui College old boy died last June, at the age of 46, several months after his cancer diagnosis.

Parents Lesley and Ralph Wardle, of Featherston, remember vividly the day Stu was diagnosed – after all, it was within half an hour of winning a free helicopter ride.

“After that, we got a phone call saying our son Stuart was in hospital, and we were asked to please go to Wellington,” Lesley said.

Stuart, who lived in Johnsonville, had been suffering neck pain for some time, and had been seeing doctors “over months and months” with no success in finding the source of his pain.

In the end, he took himself to Wellington Hospital and paid for his own MRI scan, because he did not have a referral.

Family believe this scan was never reimbursed – it showed he had secondary bowel cancer which had spread to his neck.

It was quickly decided that the free helicopter trip the Wardles had won would be an incentive for Stu to recover – he even added it onto his bucket list which included things like learning to swim, and eating Bluff oysters.

Even after his death, the Wardles were determined Stu would take to the skies on that helicopter.

And so, last Sunday, the Wardles went up with Wairarapa Helicopters along with Stu’s birth mother Sylvia Lagah, Lesley’s sister Diane D’Ath, and Stu’s ashes.

“It started to spit, but it was supposed to be fining up around the coast.,” Lesley said.

“So, we went down south, past the clouds and around the coastline [at Riversdale].

“It was absolutely beautiful…the light trying to come through the clouds was just amazing.”

Sylvia said the closer they got to the coast, the more the rain teemed down.

“If Stu had actually been there, he would have got such a buzz out of it,” she said.

“I wish he could have done all his bucket list, but it’s not to be.”

Lesley said she was upset that Stu had not received a cancer diagnosis earlier.

“If you’ve got a pain and it doesn’t go away, and you’re not getting satisfaction from your doctor, keep going back and get louder and louder,” she said.

She said Stu had been a naturally quiet, polite person, who did everything he was told to do.

“And all the time, his pain was getting worse and worse.

“You need to be assertive.

“He did that at the end to get the diagnosis, but it was too late.”

Lesley said she wanted to also stress the importance of cancer patients making it a priority to fulfil their bucket lists.

“If you are diagnosed, and there’s things you want to do, do them.

“Get your treatment to fit around the things you want to do, rather than being ruled by the treatment schedule… because you might not get the time.”

The family wanted to thank Wairarapa Helicopters for being accommodating to them since Stu’s death, and also wanted to thank Parkinson’s Wairarapa who had raffled off the free ride.

Stu’s ashes are expected to be scattered at Riversdale Beach.


Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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