The decision to go public was a turning point for Dai and gave him new purpose. He signed up as Daffodil Day Ambassador for ANZ for this year’s Cancer Society appeal.
“Being able to raise awareness and funds for an amazing organisation like the Cancer Society is something that really gets me excited,” he says.
“And when I'm excited, I don't feel so much like I'm a victim of cancer.”
Living in Auckland, Dai didn’t need the Cancer Society’s help with transport or accommodation, but he and his wife did struggle to know how to talk to their two young children about cancer.
“We didn’t know how and what to tell them, but after a session with one of the therapists at the Cancer Society, we got some great tools to help,” says Dai.
Since then, Dai has undergone sixteen rounds of chemotherapy, and he and his wife have continued to make use of the Cancer Society’s free counselling services.
“It's been huge, because I believe a cancer diagnosis is almost as hard for the partner as it is for the patient,” he says.
“Sure, I have to do the hard physical treatment - but the mental game is just as hard for both parties.
“My wife has had to carry the sadness and the intensity of my diagnosis, while trying to keep the family rocking along, keep doing her job, and thinking of the future,” he says.
“The Cancer Society delivers these A-grade services for free, to help people who are dealing with so much physical, emotional and financial trauma. It’s just huge.”
BACK ON STAGE
In the periods when Dai isn’t having chemotherapy, he has resumed his live stand-up comedy career, with audiences responding positively to his new content.
“The laughs don't come from cancer itself, it’s the absurdities of some of the things I've been through which people can relate to,” he says.
“It's not like now it's all about cancer, but I have to acknowledge the elephant in the room and let people know what I'm going through.
“The first time I did it I got this warm cheering and applause, and I was like, oh my gosh, they're right behind me,” Dai says.
“I realised that by talking about it publicly I could help some people, and also help myself.”
THE COMEDY TREATMENT
Drawing on this experience and his strong connections in the comedy scene, Dai has been a driving force behind what is being described as the “funniest fundraiser Cancer has ever seen.”
ANZ presents – The Comedy Treatment, hosted by Dai, will see some of New Zealand’s top comedians take to the stage and TV to help raise money for the Cancer Society.
As a major sponsor of the Cancer Society, ANZ New Zealand has supported its annual Daffodil Day appeal for the last 33 years, helping raise more than $23 million for the charity.
Taking place at 8.30pm on Thursday 24 August, on the eve of Daffodil Day, the show will encourage Kiwis to support the charity by either buying a ticket or tuning in on Three and donating.
“You might miss $5 from your account right now, but you’ll forget about it in two days,” says Dai.
“All of those $5s add up, and mean someone can get a lift, someone going through a severe surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy can have somewhere to stay, or their whanau can be with them.
“We can all help.”
Dai will be joined by the royal family of New Zealand comedy, including Mel Bracewell, Josh Thomson, Ben Hurley and Justine Smith.
Despite his diagnosis, Dai remains upbeat.
“My mantra through this has been ‘optimism won't cure me, but pessimism will kill me’,” he says.
“I'm not in the business of timelines because everyone responds differently to treatment.
“At the moment what I'm doing is, sort of, maintenance chemotherapy, where I try and get my cancer load as low as possible, and then take a break,” Dai says.
“I look at it like I'm trying to keep a classic car on the road, until we can get the exact right part to get it fully going.”