A privilege to be among the daffodils

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Annie Bonifant reflects on 17 years with the Ashburton Cancer Society.
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Daffodil Day this year will be very different for Annie Bonifant.

After 17 years with the Ashburton Cancer Society, Annie finished this week as the manager.

Back in 2005 when she began as the community liaison person, her office was in her home. Shortly after the office was moved to the Manchester Unity building.

Originally from Blenheim, and on a visit back home, Annie saw the Blenheim Cancer Society rooms and all they could offer from such a premise.

Annie spoke to Alistair Argyle, president of the Ashburton Society, about Ashburton having a centre that could offer more than they currently could. Following a search, they moved into an office in Burnett Street and got another staff member on board.

But after the Canterbury earthquakes the building was no longer suitable and following another search they moved into their current rooms at Mona Square.

The Cancer Society has been in their current location for 11 years.

The things you do …. Annie, left, with Hinds School pupil Ruby Taylor, and Mandy Casey.

The move meant Annie, her staff and team of 80 volunteers could better serve the community with the programmes they offer, and provide a place for people to drop into.

With a much larger facility they can offer programmes like ‘look good feel good’, yoga, and prior to covid, a meal was offered. Other services supporting those with cancer, such as prostrate and child, now use the rooms.

One of the highlights of the role for Annie has been working with ‘‘amazing volunteers who freely give their time and so do much for those with cancer.’’

The former nurse said her life has been enriched by the people she has meet through the role.

Annie had been out of the workforce for sometime with family and farm commitments when a friend in Christchurch suggested she check out the role being advertised at the Cancer Society in Ashburton.

Being a part-time role of 16 hours was attractive, so she applied.

Getting the word out … Mandy Casey, Annie Bonifant and Sue Letham get the giant daffodils ready for Daffodil Day.

The assistance the society provides those on a cancer journey and their families has evolved over the years.

The range of volunteering opportunities has also grown.

Volunteers provide reception duties, sit with cancer patients, bake, drive, provide catering and fundraising.

Annie has been supported in her role by two staff members and the volunteers.

She said she feels ‘‘very privileged to have been able to help people, give practical and emotional support to those on the cancer journey.’’

While the values of the Cancer Society , ‘to lessen the impact of cancer in our community’ hasn’t changed, during Annie’s time the number of people now accessing their services has increased.

They are there for anyone with cancer and their family.

Tag team …. Mandy Casey, Annie Bonifant, Trevor Croy and Karen McRae ready for a past Relay for Life in Ashburton.

Annie believes having the premises has increased their profile and people now do self referrals or drop in for a chat.

With more people being diagnosed with cancer, the demand for services will increase.

Currently one in three New Zealander’s will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. By 2040 this figure will have doubled.

The increasing costs of living impact those with cancer if they have to make regular trips to services in Christchurch and the Cancer Society can help, such as providing a driver to get them to appointments or if they are unable to work.

There are ways the Cancer Society can make life more bearable for them, and their families.

Annie said being given a cancer diagnoses ‘‘is stressful and the Cancer Society is able to help take some of that stress go away with our services’’.

What was once a taboo subject, before being referred to as ‘the big C’ is now openly talked about.

Early days … Mandy Casey and Annie Bonifant with some of the daffodil themed items for sale in a past Daffodil Day events.

There is an improvement in screening services and with the increased publicity of the screening programmes more people are taking up the opportunity to get checked.

Alongside the screening there are a variety of groups for those with cancer such as the prostrate, breast and child cancer support groups.

The groups not only provide support and resources but they encourage people to talk about cancer.

Over the last 20 years through increased technology and social media there is more awareness of cancer and this enables open conversations on the topic to happen.

‘‘A cancer diagnosis does not necessarily mean a death sentence, treatment and research have dramatically changed,’’ Annie said.

While Annie is sad to be leaving, she said the time is right for her to step aside and let new staff take the organisation into the future.

Annie said she ‘‘will miss the people who it has been a privilege and very rewarding to journey with, through the good and bad, knowing you have helped make a difference has made it all worth it.’’

Former crew … Sharon Robinson, Annie Bonifant and Mandy Casey promote a Cancer Society event about resilience and survivorship.

Exciting times are ahead for the Canterbury Cancer Society with a plan mid-year opening of the Canterbury Cancer Centre, which replaces Daffodil Lodge and Daffodil House.

The centre will house 47 accommodation rooms for two, three family accommodation rooms, support services, administration, programmes and complimentary services clients have been asking for to enable them and their families to live well with cancer.

Currently the Ashburton Cancer Society has 110 people on their books and on average receives 10-12 referrals a month.

They provide the best support they can to those who need it, and work closely with other organisations and support services, especially those focusing on cancer.

‘‘It is a wonderful organisation and I am lucky to have been part of this charitable organisation,’’ Annie said.