18 year old Samuel Danes from Waiuku has been on a long journey over the past months. After being diagnosed in May with osteosarcoma bone cancer in his leg, a rare cancer that affects only one in 10,000 children in New Zealand, he has been in and out of hospital for treatments and having surgeries.
But a positive amongst it all was the cricket-lover’s recent opportunity to hang out with the Black Caps. “It started when we contacted Heath Mills, from the New Zealand Cricket Players Association,” Sam says. “He came to see me then through him we got in contact with Mike Sandle, the Black Caps manager.”
They planned something special for Sam. “It was overwhelming,” says Sonya, Sam’s Mum.
They organised for Samuel and his parents to travel to Hamilton in November with the team, attend training, eat meals and go to the match against Pakistan. “It was an awesome opportunity,” Sam says.
They were able to schedule his chemotherapy treatments to enable him to go, and while he did have to go to A and E twice in Hamilton after a reaction to a dressing change, he says he enjoyed the experience. “It was awesome. They were amazing,” he says.
Sam also had some friends arrive and share the moment with him, including a former cricket coach.
From exploring the clubrooms, attending trainings, seeing third umpire decisions and going behind the scenes at SKY TV, Sam was given an experience that he will treasure, and is sure to spur him on to bigger and better things in his future.
“I got a tour of the third umpire’s room and the commentary box, but a highlight was getting to be with the players in the changing room after they won,” he says.
Sonya says the Black Caps experience has given him new ideas that will allow him to follow his passion.
“Knowing there’s so many jobs in the background has really opened our eyes,” she says.
“It’s the coolest thing to know there are still so many options. Sam hasn’t lost the dream, he’s just changed the focus.”
Sonya says the team were a genuinely nice bunch of guys. “They’re really caring and nice and they’ve told him to keep in touch, and they meant it. It’s not a one-off.”
She says she suggested Sam send them a text when they were playing in Sydney to give them some tips.
With memories to last a lifetime, Sam will now be focusing on getting well.
“He’s lost some hearing and the chemo has resulted in some heart damage, but it’s all part of the process, and it’s necessary.” Sam’s chemotherapy is set to finish in February, all going to plan, and then he will begin rehab for his leg.
“Sam just has to sit and get well now,” she says.