An Auckland mum who only discovered she had cancer after having a seizure behind the wheel of a car is now facing a terminal diagnosis.
Peta Winikerei was driving home in her Subaru Impreza with her two children on December 20, 2019 when the seizure occurred.
She was driving along Bader Drive in south Auckland’s Māngere when she felt the seizure come on.
She tried to pull off to the side of the road, crashing the car. Luckily, her children were uninjured.
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Winikerei woke up in an ambulance and was taken to hospital to find what had caused the seizure.
Soon after, the 43-year-old from Māngere Bridge was told she had a brain tumour called glioblastoma.
Just a few months ago, Winikerei found out treatment wasn’t working and her diagnosis was terminal.
Winikerei’s friend of 20 years, Ruth Church, told Stuff Winikerei had been having some headaches prior to her seizure and although not feeling 100 per cent, she didn’t think much of it.
As a mum to 11-year-old Milan and 7-year-old Ziva, Church said Winikerei just got on with things.
The diagnosis of a brain tumour came as a huge shock to Winikerei’s friends, but Church said Winikerei was “super staunch” and just got on with what needed to be done to treat the tumour.
Winikerei underwent surgery in January 2020 but surgeons weren’t able to remove the whole tumour.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy was started and Winikerei, who worked for the Ministry of Education, was medically retired towards the end of 2020 to focus on her health.
“She’s very much [the kind of person that when] life throws things at you, you just climb over top of it and keep going,” Church said.
“She’s really just her true self, and she’s just ‘oh well, it is what it is’.”
Church said Winikerei was a “real champion” for others and for many years, had organised Christmas boxes for local families and supported community services through donating items.
She said she thought Winikerei’s attitude towards her diagnosis may change when she was told treatment wasn’t working, and she was now considered terminal.
But it hadn’t. Winikerei had remained open and able to talk about what she was going through.
“I’m shocked in how she’s been able to do that.”
Church said she had seen her friend’s ability to communicate go downhill over time, and more so in the past couple of months.
But she was “amazed” by the strength Winikerei had.
She said her friend’s diagnosis was unfair but it had taught her and other close friends of Winikerei that sometimes bad things happen to decent people.
Winikerei had taught them to make the most of what they had and be grateful for it, Church said.
A Givealittle page has been set up to help raise funds to support Winikerei’s family, so she doesn’t have to worry about finances while dealing with her diagnosis.