Symbol of life . . . Gloria Hurst walks past swan plants in her garden. A monarch butterfly's journey through life is a perfect metaphor for our own lives, she says. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

For Gloria Hurst, next month’s Relay For Life in Oamaru will be an opportunity to remember those who have passed on and to celebrate life and the good stories of cancer survivors.

Mrs Hurst and husband Ian have supported the Cancer Society for many years – every year they donate daffodils from Willow Park to be sold for Daffodil Day.

This year, they are part of one of the many teams registered and fundraising for the 24-hour Relay for Life at Centennial Park.

“That’s a joy for us to do, because my mother died of cancer,” she said.

Mrs Hurst remembers the day of her mother’s diagnosis.

“My sister and I came home from school. Mum and Dad were . . . sitting on the couch in their town clothes – and farmers don’t do that.

“Dad said, your mother’s got cancer and we’re going to sell the farm and move to town and there’s no need to talk about it’.”

For a long time, Mrs Hurst could not talk about her mother’s illness or death.

In those days, people just held on to it the best way they could, she said.

“We didn’t talk to Mum about her dying while she was sick.

“We weren’t given the opportunity to grieve – and that was just the way it was.”

Then when Mr and Mrs Hurst’s baby, Sam, died after being born prematurely, she repeated the process.

“Because it was the only process I knew.

“People didn’t know what to say to me, I didn’t know what to say to anybody else.

“You just got on and kept busy.”

On reflection, she does not regret the way she, or her family, handled loss.

“I know that we all did our best at the time.

“There’s no rights and wrongs here – I think it’s so good that we’ve evolved now to talking about cancer, and illnesses, and death a lot of people are curious about life after death.”

The Relay for Life in Oamaru would be a great opportunity to have conversations about life and death _ and what came next, she said.

Through her experiences, she now had the knowledge and skills to be able to help others.

“I’m so blessed to have had those experiences, because I can talk about it now and I can help others.”

Her advice?

Talk and focus on the positives.

“Find the positive stories, because there are lots of them.

“Talk about your feelings – and you will have good days and bad days and there are good stories and bad stories – but celebrate the life you have here right now.”

Life was so unpredictable, in so many ways, she said.

“It’s really teaching us to be the best we can be and do the best we can for those around us, and be kind to self, to others and the environment,” she said.

“There’s no guarantees for any of us, is there?”

She was also a passionate advocate for the power of connecting with nature.

To Mrs Hurst, the monarch butterfly was a wonderful symbol of life – full of life, death, and transformation.

“The munching of the hungry caterpillar is actually that mouse-wheel that most of us get ourselves on to in life.

“I think that stillness of being in the cocoon is necessary from time to time, and we found that during Covid.

“Everybody needs to learn how to charge their battery.”

Relay for Life