Ladies who come to St Oswald’s Hospice for support during the day have had a special Haka dance lesson to help tick off one group members’ bucket list.

Jackie Maxwell, age 56, from Gateshead, created a bucket list after she was diagnosed with incurable cancer, as an opportunity to do things she has always wanted to accomplish and to raise money for St Oswald’s. Her bucket list items range from visiting local sights, completing a 5k race and now learning the Haka.

When asked to teach the ladies at St Oswald’s the Haka, New Zealand born rugby player Graison Dale and rugby coach and PE teacher Magnus Leask, stepped in. The two rugby professionals gave an introduction to the dance and its history, and taught the ladies the traditional song and dance.

Jackie said:

“After being diagnosed with cancer for a third time, I’m now told that it’s life-limiting and I have a maximum of 10 years to live. Because I’ve had a busy life and career working as a nurse, I’ve never had time to think about what I really want to do and achieve. I’ve been thinking of all the things I haven’t done, so I put a bucket list together.

“I come to St Oswald’s once a week for a ladies exercise group, and also to their Lymphoedema Clinic to manage my condition. After initially not wanting to get involved in the ladies group, I gave in and realised that we are all exactly the same and we know what one another is going through. I told the group about the bucket list, which included wanting to learn the Haka and didn’t think anything of it.

“The next week I came to St Oswald’s, Carole, who leads the group told me she had arranged for two rugby players to come in and teach us the Haka. We had a fantastic afternoon with Graison and Magnus, who really got involved with us and stayed for our full two hour session. It was so interesting to find out more about their culture, and at the end of the session they even gave me a traditional Maori greeting of touching noses, which means the breath of life.”

Talking about why Jackie chose the haka for her bucket list, she continued:

“I saw it performed at a wedding and I have heard that it can also be a dance at funerals, which is meant to signify sending you into your next life – so that’s the reason I wanted to do it.

“Rather than thinking of this part of my life as a sad chapter, I now refer to it as my achievement chapter. I still have lots of things to tick off the list, and I’m raising funds for St Oswald’s while I’m doing it.”

Graison Dale, player for Consett Rugby Club, said:

“I jumped at the chance to come to St Oswald’s because I love teaching the Haka and sharing our New Zealand culture. You can see the ladies here are a lovely bunch of people and it’s obvious how close they have become. The Haka really related to the people in this room today too as it’s a celebration of life over death, facing your fears and being strong.”

Magnus Leask PE and Games Teacher at Dame Allan’s School and Novocastrians RFC rugby coach, said:

“It’s been so much more uplifting at St Oswald’s today than I thought it would be. It has been a very special afternoon, meeting the ladies and seeing that they are such a tight group. I don’t think I’ve laughed this much in a long time, it’s really given me a rush!

“It has been amazing to see how positive these people are, facing their conditions head on with smiles on their faces. I think it must have something to do with their environment and the people around them. I just hope that when we have our moments of sadness, we have a group like this around. Thank you to St Oswald’s for inviting us today, we’ve loved every minute.”

Carole Taylor, Co-Ordinator of Therapeutic Activities at St Oswald’s, said: “We are so grateful to Magnus and Graison for taking the time out of their busy schedules to join us and teach us the Haka. It means so much to Jackie to tick items off her bucket list, and as a group we are really proud to be part of this too. We had a brilliant session, with lots of laughter and it was great to see the men so enthusiastic and passionate about their culture.”

You can watch the ladies performing the haka with Graison and Magnus at https://youtu.be/x1HBtFH38Pg