National | Cancer

Cancer heartbreak for Honey Hireme-Smiler and wife Rochelle Smiler

Honey Hireme-Smiler and Rochelle Smiler, with puppy Rongoā.  Photo credit / Stephen Barker

Former Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme-Smiler and wife Rochelle Smiler are making the most of their precious married life together, after receiving heartbreaking news late last year that Rochelle has stage four cancer.

A Women's Day report in the NZ Herald says the couple was told in December that Rochelle has bile duct cancer and that it is terminal.

"It was a massive shock and we were absolutely shattered," says Honey, whose mother Caryn Hunter, 62, passed away from stomach cancer shortly after their nuptials.

A month before her diagnosis, Rochelle visited her doctor because she was experiencing excessive itching and a few sore stomachs.

"She was scratching a lot and we just thought it was eczema or the change in season," says Honey.

Tests and later scans revealed that Rochelle's bile duct cancer had spread to her ovaries, lower abdomen, lungs and some of her lymph nodes.

While doctors estimated she had six months to live without chemo and 12 months with medical treatment, Rochelle, who lost her mother Christine Henry to melanoma a decade ago, is determined to stay around far longer.

"When they give a life expectancy, it's not based on me – it's based on what my scans say amongst 1000 people they measure," Rochelle told Women's Day. "I've been fortunate that my body has reacted really well to treatment and chemo hasn't knocked me back like you imagine it would."

She says the tumour in her ovary has shrunk more than 70 per cent since she started treatment.

Rochelle is now enjoying a couple of months' rest from treatment before her next scan and is also appreciating quality time with her boys Tyronne, 21, and Kieran, 19, and Honey's son Karasharn, 17, who are all back home to be close to their mums.

In late August, Rochelle and Honey are looking forward to the birth of their first grandchild, a baby girl.

The couple, who share a love of fitness and the outdoors, told Women's Day they are taking regular walks, which they agree are both physically and mentally rewarding.

"If I'm fit, it's only going to help my body heal," says Rochelle. "Now it's about trying to create moments and not wasting time. I want to make the most of the life I've got left."