Christchurch, February 29: In a grey trouser and matching shirt with broad checks, Sir Richard Hadlee did not look 68. Perhaps, the greyed hair and moustache indicated his advancing years. But beneath that dapper look, Hadlee, who once held the world record of highest number of Test wickets with 431 scalps from 86 matches, has been fighting an ugly, feared monster.
Stage IV colorectal cancer.
But Hadlee mentions about the tough passage with a smile, a common trait of people in New Zealand. He even finds solace in the fact that the illness has not touched Stage V, which is terminal.
"I am feeling very well. Just going back in time, in 2018, I was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer, which is not good and there's one only thing worse than that and that's Stage V, that's terminal. I didn't get that far, so that's ok," says Hadlee.
However, once he delved into the details of his fight back against a disease that pushed him to the brink, the listeners, perhaps, flinched a bit. But Hadlee maintained that broad smile.
"I had a third of the bowel removed. Blood tests were not good. It metastasized and it got to my liver, so they took 15% of my liver. My gall bladder and appendix, without even asking, they just pinched them while I was asleep! Then, I had six months of chemotherapy, which was a difficult time particularly with fatigue, food, vomiting, diarrhoea, that was a difficult time to get through. That finished end of January last year.
"At the moment all good. I lost 10 kilos but that's all come back on now. I do all the normal things now, just have to watch my diet. I get regular check-ups every three months. At the moment, test results were in my favour but I am not out of the woods. I have to still get through the next 12 to 24 months without any reoccurrence. If it comes back, then we will deal with it then but it won't be good. But at the moment all clear," he says.
But it had life-changing effect on Hadlee. "It puts life into perspective because I had no symptoms. It was purely a freak situation where I had a routine colonoscopy that determined the problem. I was faced with a huge challenge in your life where the odds were not in my favour. They are still not, surviving five years. Two years into it and I have to get go through the next three years without any problem.
"I feel good but tomorrow I could wake up with a symptom. That makes you think about appreciate the value of life, of living life, living each day and having something to look forward to. Like this project (Hadlee Indoor facility), wanting to see it start, to be complete, to be opened, working in my lifetime. That's very important to me," he says.
Many times, people will need a release point when they go through such tough period, a pain killer if you may. Hadlee's Valium was the work for the indoor facility inside of the Hagley Oval.
"There is a bit of history. It used to be owned by the Canterbury Cricket Association back in the 1970s. It had two indoor lanes, concrete, hard on the body, four squash courts and a golf driving range. Then it was sold in the late 80s, maybe 90s, and the horticultural society ended up buying it. And they had nothing to do with cricket. So we had a facility in a cricket ground that had nothing to do with cricket. It became available once this all came together. It made sense to develop it into a high-performance indoor cricket facility with five lanes, changing rooms, meeting rooms, gym facilities, offices and all sorts of things. And it bears my name, that's very proud thing.
"And the sports trust that I have had for 30 years has put in $800,000. The importance of having a facility on this ground, and it is a community facility - it is for the kids. For them to grow their game, their love of cricket. They will have expert coaching for boys and girls. It complements the outdoor facility, complements the lights, the ground, the pavilion here. We got to develop that, find the money to do it. That's my goal at the moment, gives me an incentive to wake up in the morning and tap people on the shoulder and 'Can you help?' We got a wee way to go there yet but we will get there," he signs off.
Not a hint of apprehension or worry. Just that pervading smile.