A new baby has signalled new beginnings for the Mapusua family, after three-and-a-half years of heartache caused by cancer.
After making a strong showing at the Relay for Life in November 2016, in the midst of the family’s second devastating battle with cancer, the Mapusuas have been named Relay for Life Ambassadors for the March 2018 event.
Ana and Seilala Mapusua , and son Jaquan (15), welcomed baby Seilala eight months ago, a joyful event in what has been a tough few years.
After living in England and Japan for about a decade, due to Seilala Mapusua’s rugby career, the family returned home to Dunedin in 2015 so Mrs Mapusua could support and care for her mum Christine Muasika through her illness.
“It was while I was supporting Mum that I came to know more about the incredible work of the Cancer Society,” Mrs Mapusua said.
“She really loved being part of the support groups, such as the Look Good, Feel Better workshops, and came away feeling so much better.”
During this time, Mrs Mapusua appreciated the support and understanding of a carers’ group she joined through the Cancer Society.
‘Even though my husband Seilala has been my rock throughout this time, it was still good to have that extra support and to share stories with people who totally got it.”
Her mother died in June 2016, shortly after the family had returned from the funeral of Mrs Mapusua’s grandmother in Tonga.
At the same time, Mrs Mapusua discovered that she was pregnant, and also learned that her dad, Aloisio Takapautolo Muasika (Tino), had cancer.
It was a sad and tumultuous time, but the news of the impending arrival of baby Seilala brought joy to the whole family.
In November last year, Jaquan inspired the family to get involved in the Relay for Life.
“Jaquan and his friends wanted to put together a team in memory of Mum, which was really nice,” Mrs Mapusua said.
The enthusiastic team was led by Jaquan, Hannah White and their friends from John McGlashan College and Columba College.
“We all had T-shirts with a message in memory of Mum on the front, and a ‘keep fighting’ message for Dad on the back,” Mrs Mapusua said.
The team’s Bob Marley “One Love”-themed tent was created in honour of Mrs Muasika, as the musician had been her favourite performer and she had had strong views about the need for people to love each other more.
Although her pregnancy meant she was unable to stay the full 24 hours, Mrs Mapusua said she “fell in love” with the Relay for Life experience.
“I was blown away – it was great to see all those people coming together for such an important cause,” she said.
“And the stories that were told in the candlelight ceremony were so moving and empowering.”
After a long battle, Mr Muasika died in November, 2017.
After such a tough time, Mrs Mapusua was touched and “really honoured” when the Cancer Society reached out to invite her family to take on the role of Relay for Life ambassadors.
“After seeing first hand and experiencing the resources, workshops and care that the Cancer Society provides, it is so humbling to be part of such an amazing event,” Mrs Mapusua said.
The 2018 Relay for Life will be held on March 17 and 18 at the Caledonian Ground at Logan Park.