By Donna-Lee Biddle, read full article here
A year after Angela Sunkel lost her fight against cancer, her family honoured one of her last wishes and donated the money to support others living with cancer.
The 30-year-old died in October 2014, from myeloid leukaemia after fundraising money for a million-dollar second stem cell transplant in America.
She told her husband Raymond, and parents Christine and Ron Smith, that if she died before treatment, she wanted the money to go to Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.
“We were fundraising and what that caused us to do and what that caused Angela to do, was have a purpose every morning when she got up,” said Raymond Sunkel.
“[Angela] had hope every day to carry on living.
“On the day that she passed away, she said, ‘what church are we going to go to for Christmas’. She was already thinking about what was happening months down the track.”
On Tuesday afternoon, on the same ward at Waikato Hospital where Angela died, a commemoration was held to thank the family for the $333,000 donation.
“If there was something I was going to give to you from a family of somebody who has battled and lost [against a terminal disease], is that hope is never ever futile,” Sunkel said.
“She got up every morning, every day, to carry on living. At no stage did she ever get up to not die – there’s an enormous difference.”
Angela’s parents said their daughter would be “right behind” giving the funds to help others.
“The incredible input from the community kept her going,” they said.
“She received messages daily from people and that gave her hope.”
Sunkel said being back on the ward he called a second home was bittersweet.
“It’s primarily a ward, where you deal with the sickest of the sick,” he said.
“It was mixed emotions. This used to be a second home, so it was strange to see all the staff that we were starting to love.
“The medical team here played that part in allowing her to hope.”
Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand chief executive officer, Pru Etcheverry, said the donation is one of the largest they had ever received for the organisation.
“The allocation of these substantial funds will go a great way to helping patients,” she said.
“We spoke with Raymond, and Ron and Christine and the wider trustees about an appropriate way to remember Angela and to leave a legacy that will live, and with permission, that’s been called Angela’s Fund.”
Etcheverry said the money will be used to support patients and their families in the Midland Region with equipment on the ward, such as wheelchairs and La-Z-Boy chairs and in more practical ways, such as petrol and parking vouchers.
Sunkel said he hopes Angela’s Fund will not only help others, but be as courageous as she was.
“In the end, the cause was what some would say futile because she didn’t survive, but she had a reason to get up every morning,” he said.
“She had a real desire to live. Yes, she was particularly remarkable but we’re a little bit bias. But we do know that there was something very special about her.”