Tauranga writer Dawn Picken reflects on her life from Waipuna Hospice & More Trending News


Journalist and former Bay of Plenty Times characteristic writer Dawn Picken is now in palliative care. Photo / Andrew Warner

Bay of Plenty Times columnist Dawn Picken doesn’t understand how lengthy she has left however docs have instructed she is approaching the tip of her life. From hospice, she speaks to colleague Kiri Gillespie about her battle and the significance of doing the stuff you need in life and profiting from the time you have got.

Dawn Picken welcomes us into her room at Waipuna Hospice wearing a lavender shirt, with matching lipstick.

She appears to be like totally stunning – as Dawn at all times does.

But it’s apparent one thing’s fallacious.

A nasogastric tube trails from her nostril and there may be tiredness hanging over her which is so out of character.

Dawn at all times knew at the present time might come.

But it does little to quell the anguish for her, her household, and people whose lives she has touched throughout her 12 years in Tauranga.

The former tv reporter, marathon runner, writer, group volunteer and Bay of Plenty Times Weekend characteristic writer and columnist is in palliative take care of an incurable “one-in-a-million” liver situation.

Dawn, 52, doesn’t know precisely how lengthy she has left however docs have instructed she is approaching the tip of her life.

She was first admitted to Tauranga Hospital in mid-October after displaying indicators of inside bleeding.

Dawn was later discharged however was readmitted on November 8 after her situation worsened. A subsequent scan revealed {that a} lobe of her liver has infarcted/died.

She additionally had a big clot in her portal vein which was spreading and meant she was not appropriate for a liver transplant.

On Thursday, she was transferred to Waipuna Hospice for palliative care.

For those that know Dawn, the information of her deteriorating well being stuffed us with shock and deep unhappiness. I’ve recognized Dawn by way of her work on the Bay of Plenty Times for about 10 years and have at all times admired her power, optimistic outlook, grace, and storytelling.

Those near Dawn will already pay attention to her plight. She has lengthy catalogued her life by way of blogs, newspaper columns, a brand new ebook, Love, Loss and Lifelines: My Year of Grief on the Run, and extra lately a affected person replace web site known as CaringBridge.

Sharing her story with the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend now will not be uncommon for Dawn, who spent eight years as a tv reporter and presenter in Spokane, Washington, earlier than turning into a advertising director for a regional chamber of commerce. Throughout her profession, Dawn has been open about her life and desires to share this chapter in her journey as effectively.

Her diligent documenting of private recollections and milestones has unwittingly develop into her legacy.

She says it’s one thing she’s “really glad to have been able to do”.

Dawn retains her great sense of humour, and reflecting in hospice, she says it's "really important for people to make their wishes known and to talk to their families about it”. Photo / Andrew Warner
Dawn retains her nice sense of humour, and reflecting in hospice, she says it is “really important for people to make their wishes known and to talk to their families about it”. Photo / Andrew Warner

“Not just privately or for my circle of friends but for the wider public — to be able to write about things that are important to me and to others in the community, that has also been a way for me to process things … it’s a nice legacy to have.”

Songbirds can be heard in the garden flush with pink flowers outside her room. Dawn takes a breath to explain her current situation.

Dawn was diagnosed with liver disease in 1996 at the age of 26.

At the time, the medium mortality rate after that diagnosis was 11 years. She didn’t think she’d live past 37.

A trip to the Mayo Clinic revealed the original diagnosis wasn’t correct. However, Dawn’s subsequent diagnosis of Caroli disease was still very serious – a hereditary liver condition that affects one in a million people.

“Lucky me,” she says.

Following the diagnosis, Dawn embarked on a mission to squeeze the most out of life while she could.

A friend once affectionately described her as “Mach 3 with her hair on fire”, she says, laughing.

For reference, a Mach 3 is travelling three times the speed of sound.

“That’s how I live my life. That’s a big part of it – realising that time is so short and limited.”

The sudden death of her husband, Sean Stanelun, in January 2010 prompted this view.

The couple had been married for 10 years when Sean, 48, got sick.

Their children, Finley and Fiona, were 3 and 5 when he entered hospital with flu-like symptoms. He was diagnosed with necrotising fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease, and had surgeries on his arms and legs to cut away dead tissue. Coincidentally, he also had a large mass on his pancreas.

Doctors said it looked benign but would need to come out after Sean was largely recovered from necrotising fasciitis.

About a month after the surgery on his pancreas, Sean suffered complications including a massive internal bleed.

The loss of Dawn’s husband changed everything.

She stepped away from her career and launched herself on a world tour with her two small children.

“I needed to do it. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it. I felt this real longing to get out.

“Knowing that life is short if I wanted to do something, I had to do it now. I couldn’t put it off. There was no waiting until retirement … If I wanted to do something like travel the world, I was going to do it.”

She and her children ended up landing in Tauranga that same year.

Dawn, young Fiona, and little Finley had plans to stay for six months, which turned into 12 years. Dog Ally has since also become a core part of the Picken family.

“I really felt I made the right decision. After a couple of months, I started to wonder how I would ever pull myself away,” Dawn says.

Both children have now grown into young adults and have left the family home but have returned to Tauranga to be by her side.

Fiona joins us in the room as Dawn explains the balance between “seizing the day” and being careful with life.

“I have been walking around with this dark cloud for more than two decades now but, yeah, I have to go ahead to do the normal things but also, take advantage of the opportunities you get. You don’t know when they will come around again,’ Dawn says.

Mum, reporter and former television anchor Dawn Picken pictured in October with her book Love, Loss and Lifelines. Photo / Andrew Warner
Mum, reporter and former television anchor Dawn Picken pictured in October with her book Love, Loss and Lifelines. Photo / Andrew Warner

Among the many groups Dawn is involved in is Tauranga’s Grief Support Services, of which she is a board member.

She initially became involved as a client to help process the loss of Sean and gradually became part of the service’s family.

Just last month, Dawn launched her first book, Love, Loss and Lifelines: My year of grief on the run, which documents her personal grief journey and offers insight for others on how to cope with losing a loved one.

I recall being amazed at how resplendent in blue she was as she read, to a packed crowd in Tauranga’s new library He Puna Manawa, snippets of her life so far.

No one in that room had any idea of what was to come in three weeks’ time.

Dawn says she has been open about her condition with her children, Fiona and Finn, over the years, telling them: “I have this liver condition but I’m doing everything I can to make it as healthy and as [good] as I can.”

On the day she was first admitted to hospital in October, she had been planning to spend the weekend with her new partner, Stu Ede.

She says she was “very surprised” to find love again.

“When we started going out in early July, this kind of situation was not on my mind when we were running together and walking together.”

He has been by her side throughout.

Dawn shared excitement about an upcoming date when I bumped into her during the Tauranga Pink Walk in early October. It was plain as day she was smitten as a kitten. For someone who has long given much of herself to others, I was happy she’d found love.

In her hospice room yesterday, her partner sits quietly nearby as Dawn talks but politely excuses himself at this point. Dawn’s eyes follow him out of the room.

Dawn Picken shared her reflections from Waipuna Hospice. Photo / Andrew Warner
Dawn Picken shared her reflections from Waipuna Hospice. Photo / Andrew Warner

Dawn is buoyed by messages and videos from people who are using online tools such as CaringBridge to send their support and wishes.

On Thursday, a group of Dawn’s friends climbed Mauao at sunrise in what they dubbed “Dawn Summit”. A video of this, including personal messages to Dawn, was shared on YouTube.

Dawn says those involved are “inspirational” to her.

“Each and every one of them [are] to me – in my running life and in doing challenging outdoor activities that I otherwise would not have done. I’m so grateful to have had these experiences.”

Friends have set up a Givealittle page to help raise money for Dawn’s health, and funeral costs plus potentially to help Fiona and Finley afterwards. As of Friday afternoon, already $7125 had been raised. People can also leave messages of support on the CaringBridge website.

Those who know Dawn will appreciate her humour and it is not lost in this interview.

In reference to having published her book, a key goal of hers for several years, she says there’s a lesson for people to “be careful about ticking off your bucket list”.

Delaying completion of the book could have given her more time, she says in jest.

Asked what she most wanted people to take from her story, it was to live life while you can.

“If there’s something you really want to do, do it now. Don’t put it off,” she says.

“It’s really important for people to make their wishes known and to talk to their families about it.”

Despite not being suitable for a transplant, Dawn wants to encourage others to consider becoming organ donors.

“I urge anyone to think about organ donation. It’s so important. I wish people would give more to this. I’m probably not a candidate because of this blood clot but if I were, I would still face a waiting list.”

To use Dawn’s own words she once shared in October while talking about her book, “Life is a shared adventure, and we can better support each other if we take the time to hear each other’s stories.”

Tauranga writer Dawn Picken reflects on her life from Waipuna Hospice

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Tauranga writer Dawn Picken reflects on her life from Waipuna Hospice

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Tauranga writer Dawn Picken reflects on her life from Waipuna Hospice

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