Nelson woman with terminal cancer takes ride of her life

Nelson woman with terminal cancer takes ride of her life
Nelson woman with terminal cancer takes ride of her life


Nelson woman Jill Haggerty was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live at the end of August.

The diagnosis was a shock at first.

But Haggerty said “you’ve got to look at the bigger picture and what you have in front of you, and try and do what you can to make your life more enjoyable”.

With that in mind, she’s been working through a bucket list over the past three months, doing things she never believed that she would, including getting a tattoo of her grandchildren’s names.

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The bucket list keeps evolving – so far she’s travelled to the Bay of Islands for the first time, flown in a Cessna aircraft, done a tour on a Thunder Trike up north, and taken a cruise.

A Hanmer Springs jetboat ride, organised by her daughter Sarah Miller, was a particular highlight – “they knew my situation and just gave me the ride of my life,” she said.

But up until Thursday, she had never taken a fast spin on a motorcycle.

Motorcyclist Tina Shirley, left, takes Jill Haggerty for an excursion on her Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Motorcyclist Tina Shirley, left, takes Jill Haggerty for an excursion on her Harley Davidson motorcycle.

That’s where friend Tina Shirley decided to step in.

The proud owner of a Harley Davidson 1200T Sportster for the past seven years, the motorcycle enthusiast is a member of Babes on Bikes South Island, a group of female riders who get together twice a year for overnight trips off the beaten track. Husbands and significant others are absolutely not invited.

Before Haggerty’s first excursion, she was not especially nervous. But the pair had a plan if she began to feel unwell: a tap on the side, and a hand where it can be seen.

The women became friends when Haggerty was working as a supervisor at Fresh Choice Nelson, and Shirley would pop in to get milk. Shirley then got a job working as a receptionist at Hauora Health Centre, and the pair cemented their friendship in the waiting room.

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jill Haggerty has been ticking items off her bucket list, including getting her first tattoo featuring the names of her grandchildren.

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jill Haggerty has been ticking items off her bucket list, including getting her first tattoo featuring the names of her grandchildren.

Since Haggerty’s diagnosis, she has had friends from all over the country, and from abroad, come to see her.

“It’s been very overwhelming for me. Every time I think about it, I get very tearful.”

Haggerty, who turns 62 next week, was doing chemotherapy but decided to put a halt to treatment. She was after quality time, not quantity, and wanted to spend time with her family without feeling “too crook”.

While the strained medical system is regularly under scrutiny, she said she couldn’t fault the care that she had received.

“They have been brilliant, and they’re at my beck and call. In the hospital the nurses are terrific, they’re really overworked but they still put a smile on their face and they’re still happy,” she said. “They’re just lovely.”

Next on Haggerty’s bucket list was to go and watch her son, Jason Stewart, race his Formula Three power boat, she said.

Her message, to other people in a similar circumstance, was you could get out and do the things that you wanted to do – the trick was to strike up conversations to get the ball rolling.

She also has a some words of advice for the rest of us.

“Don’t take things for granted,” she said.

“Enjoy your family and your friends. Do what you want to do. Don’t feel that you can’t do it because you can. Enjoy what you have in life. Enjoy what you can because you never know what’s around the corner.”

As for the ride, she “thoroughly enjoyed it”.

Shirley said she was “absolutely rapt” that she could do this for her friend, who was a “very special” person. Haggerty was appreciative of the experience.

“It’s beautiful what she did and I am very, very grateful.”



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