For many of us, life is a little bit like a rollercoaster ride, but for Kate and Milke Wilwert the past twelve months have been more like game of snakes and ladders.
The couple have recently moved home after spending 323 nights at Rānui House. For Mike it’s been a long, tough journey – after initially being admitted to Christchurch Hospital in November 2022 with kidney failure he was diagnosed with myeloma, a type of cancer of the blood, just days later.
“We weren’t sure what to think when we got the call that we needed to get to Christchurch Hospital. We could have let panic set in, but we are matter of fact people and so we just set our sights on driving to the hospital, one step at a time.”
Coming from Methven, the couple didn’t have anywhere to stay, but Kate says Rānui House welcomed them with open arms.
“It really did feel like home, and the staff here go out of their way to take care of the practical things so you don’t have to. From the house-keeping staff who make your room sparkle, to the volunteers who are around all the time, cooking up meals or offering a listening ear, I can’t thank them enough for their support.”
Mike’s treatment included several rounds of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and dialysis for his kidney failure. Everyday tasks like eating and talking became a challenge, and he felt like a zombie most of the time. Once, after undergoing a particularly intense round of chemotherapy, Mike became ill with sepsis and ended up in ICU.
“The hard days were a bit like rolling the dice, only to end up landing on snakes every time,” says Kate.
“Thankfully, Rānui House dished out a few ladders along way.”
Mike says knowing there were other people at Rānui House who understood the pain he was going through provided comfort.
“Although I wasn’t always well enough to socialise, I could look around and see there were other people just like me. We’d give each other a knowing glance, and almost instantly I didn’t feel so alone.”
Kate speaks highly of the life-long friendships she formed during her time at Rānui House. She and Mike regularly attended the Meals from the Heart Dinner Programme in the dining room, and it was there they met another couple who were going through a similar journey.
“We still talk most days. Just having someone to talk to who gets it makes the world of difference,” says Kate.
Mike was given the all-clear to return home from Rānui House in October, but continues to undergo dialysis treatment three times a week at an out-patient clinic in the central city. The couple have bought a house in Rolleston for a closer commute, but Mike is optimistic that one day soon he’ll be able to venture further afield.
“We’ve already bought Mt Hutt season passes for next year so hopefully I’ll be strong enough to ski again on my days off. We both miss skiing,” says Mike, who is also eyeing up some travel to Australia, the United States and Europe.
“That’s the pie in the sky stuff. In so far as my next steps, my hope is that one day soon I’ll be able to do at-home dialysis. If I can get through that and be stable enough, then a kidney transplant is entirely possible,” says Mike.
“We’re just taking life one treatment at a time, and hopefully we’re due to land on a few more ladders.”