Thursday, February 22, 2024

When the Big C stands for community

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Lincoln cropping and sheep farmer Liz Morrish has taken everything cancer can throw at her and still come up determined to do as much as she can for others.
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Liz Morrish has a bucket list too long for the time she has been given to live, but that is not holding her back – it’s only fuelling her determination in her battle with cancer.

Farming on the family’s Canterbury cropping farm with her husband John, Morrish was diagnosed with bowel cancer five years ago and just when she thought she was in the clear, there was more unwelcome news.

In December 2022 it was discovered the cancer had metastasized into her lungs, now Stage Four terminal cancer, then a tumour in the groin and the latest into the new year of 2024, a diagnosis of further spread and a tumour on the brain.

“I have had 13 rounds of chemo and all the drugs possible so there are no more options drug-wise.

“I’ve been told three to five months [to live], but it’s not going to be, I have far too much to do and I will fight this until the last breath in my body,” Morrish says.

It’s pretty tough, but so is Morrish.

“I’m not going to waste time lamenting, that’s not going to me or anyone any good. I just need to get on and do everything I can as I am able.”

Morrish, 68, has lived at Broadfields, near in Lincoln, all her life on her family’s 157-year-old mixed cropping and sheep farm.

The farming operation, acknowledged in Century Farms for 150 years in 2018, still today mirrors that of its early days, even if the type of crops and farming methods have changed over the years. 

The family believes in long-term farming relationships, having supplied the nearby Heinz-Watties factory with processed peas since the factory opened on the outskirts of Christchurch in 1970.

As well as the peas, the farming system includes cereal crops, grasses and vegetables for seed. 

While the farmland has been added to over time, Liz and John are on the original block, Cranleigh, in partnership with their son Mark, with sixth-generation grandchildren also living on the farm.

The first irrigation was installed in 1982 with more added in 1990 to become fully irrigated.

“When we first started, 5 tonnes a hectare for wheat was a big yield, now we are disappointed if we are not getting 10t.”

The “big squeeze”, as Morrish refers to the urban sprawl of Rolleston and Lincoln, has put pressure on the family’s desire to stay on the land.

Making the best memories possible is the goal now for Liz Morrish as she cuts the celebratory walking netball cake. 

Since the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, the towns of Rolleston and Lincoln have significantly expanded as new subdivisions roll out across the plains.

“We lamb 1200 breeding ewes, we buy in finishing stock, we are cropping farmers and that’s what we want to keep doing. Totally that’s our life.”

Alongside farming, community and Morrish’s love for sport have always played a big part in her life.

She has been a keen netballer “forever”, played tennis and badminton and more recently tried her hand at golf. 

“I decided between the two [community and sport] I wanted to do something for the community that I have been a part of all my life.

“Over a couple of wines with the netball girls I came up with the idea of a fundraiser to help those who are less fortunate than I am because cancer does not choose those who can afford help and treatment.”

Two weeks ago, Morrish, close friends and the community pulled of her idea with Lincoln-based Masters netball teams the Lustys and Springlines lining up for a community event in a game of walking netball.

“I am one of the Lustys, we have been rivals and friends for many years,” says Morrish.

“We are all too old to actually play netball so we decided walking netball, which is actually a sport.”

Morrish approached every business in Lincoln and was overwhelmed with the support for her fundraiser for the Selwyn Cancer Society.

“It’s unbelievable, the response and support has been amazing, just blown me away, I am so humbled.

“The community and the businesses donated so willingly and generously and we had such wonderful prizes for raffles.”

More than $12,000 has been raised and will go to the Selwyn Cancer Society, tagged to help local people in their battles with cancer.

“I know what help is, from family, friends, my netball girls and the community. They are all there for me all the time.

“I can’t imagine what this journey would be without them and this is the little bit I can do to help others.

“The cancer society was behind us with the netball game, the raffles, entertainment and door sales and even a celebratory netball cake to mark the game.

“It’s all totally, totally blown me away, the good community spirit is so good to be a part of.” 

Morrish is this week undergoing surgery to remove part of the brain tumour and then it will be back to her bucket list.

“I have just ticked off the Doubtful Sound overnight trip, kayaking and swimming and done the jet boat on the Shotover in Queenstown.

“I was hoping to bungy jump but that was going to be unsafe for me.”

Her still-to-do list includes zip lining on the West Coast and a trip to Rarotonga.

“I’m making the most of everything now, there’s no point in sitting at home saying poor me.

“I have to create the best memories I can in the time I have.”

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