Daniel Baxter would rather not be having his photo taken.
He would rather not be talking about himself.
He would rather not be talked about on a Facebook page created for him by his best mate Callum Turner.
Daniel would also rather not have cancer.
But he has - and while that cruel fact is true, 16-year-old Daniel sits in his family's modest Beach Haven home, surprisingly cheerful, with Callum, also 16, who he has known since the two were babies.
The Rosmini College boys from the North Shore were born 23 days apart. Daniel's mum, Chrissy, and Callum's mum, Chantall, completed nursing training together and are close friends.
Daniel's family photo albums show the boys snapped together throughout their lives, as tiny newborns, butt-naked baby bath buddies, budding pre-school chefs in aprons, boys being boys ... their families intertwined.
"We were friends from fetuses," Callum laughs. "I've always known this guy ... we've always done everything together."
Callum is the joker, baiting his friend, threatening to man-hug him for the camera ("No way that's going to happen," insists Daniel), and cheekily whispering in his ear. Daniel feigns annoyance but, despite how unwell he is, he can't stop grinning when Callum is clowning.
Daniel sits on the couch where he has spent much of the past 11 months since being diagnosed with a tumour in his spine in January.
Next to him, in a corner of the lounge, is "Callum's chair". For much of the year, when he's not at school, Callum has been there, watching TV, playing PlayStation, talking, joking, disagreeing over music ("What Callum listens to is crap," says Daniel), and eating.
How it all started
Their sedentary days began after Daniel started having trouble using his right hand. A series of tests followed, then an MRI scan, and within three weeks he was having surgery to remove a tumour. The doctors couldn't remove the whole thing without leaving Daniel paralysed, so they took what they could, leaving him with a ruler-size scar, screws and plates in his neck, and partial paralysis.
Six weeks of radiotherapy followed, five days a week, in the hope of zapping the rest.
For a while, Daniel felt a lot better. He was allowed to return to school. He tells of his first day back with some disdain.
"I'd got myself all ready, uniform, bag and stuff, and got into school and it was an exam day! They said I could do the exam and go home," he laughs.
But far greater tests have followed. Daniel's birthday on September 2 was a good day, spent at Laser Force with Callum and the family. Things seemed to be going okay. The family was hopeful.
But by Callum's birthday on September 25, Daniel was having bad headaches and vomiting. Next day, he returned to hospital.
After another MRI, doctors delivered shattering news. The cancer had spread into Daniel's brain and other parts of his spine. He's now having more radiotherapy.
Callum writes on Facebook: "This radiotherapy won't cure Daniel; this radiotherapy will give Daniel time to be with his family and friends. I can't cure Daniel's cancer but I can try to give him the time of his life.
"I have created this Facebook page with my mum to help fundraise for Daniel - even if it's just $2 for a Trumpet. I pledge to keep this page up to date so people know of Daniel's journey."
Callum's hope is that the page titled "My Mate Daniel" will raise enough money to give Daniel his simple wish - to go with his family on a "Kiwiana Taste New Zealand" road trip.
"Daniel likes food," laughs Callum. "He wants to eat and see stuff all around New Zealand."
Daniel rattles off the list, Callum interjecting with some he's forgotten.
"A pie from Pat's Pantry in Tauranga ... pies are my favourite. Oranges from Kerikeri. Oysters from Bluff," Daniel says.
"Crayfish from Kaikoura," adds Callum.
"Whitebait from the West Coast," says Daniel.
"Kiwifruit in Te Puke, L&P; in Paeroa," says Callum.
"I must admit I do have quite a thing with food," Daniel says. "I used to dabble with cooking, but I'm not much when it comes to baking."
He likes nothing better than to watch MasterChef .
"Before he got sick he would always ask what's for dinner, sometimes in the morning," mum Chrissy says.
Daniel's a big boy - 1.82m tall and strapping - he had the nickname Tank during bullrush games at school. The top sports school eyed him for the rugby team, but he was too gentle underneath it all.
His appetite has doubled because of the steroids he takes, but Daniel's frame has shrunk, the illness taking its toll.
He's lost his hair and is self-conscious about it. He's at an age when others around him worry about seemingly trivial aspects of their appearance. Callum has shaved off his own hair in support, and wears a beanie like his mate.
Within weeks the Facebook page Callum set up had hundreds of people "liking" it and offers of help.
A local builder and Bunnings Glenfield built stairs and a ramp for when Daniel needs a wheelchair; After being contacted by the Make-a-Wish foundation, Maui has donated a big campervan for Daniel's road trip; Birkenhead National Bank has donated a GPS device so the family doesn't get lost; Make-a-Wish has also organised much of the North Island part of the trip; Southern Lakes Queenstown is organising a Lord of the Rings tour. The local community - and the Facebook community - are clearly touched by the boys' friendship, and Callum's mission.
Like most teenage boys, Callum and Daniel rib each other mercilessly, but underlying it all is an incredible bond. They're already doing stuff older blokes dream of: hanging together in the Baxter family "man cave", listening to music, playing games. The man cave - an outside garage - is a godsend for Chrissy some days. Daniel is the oldest of four boys and the place can get pretty rowdy.
Like Chrissy, Daniel's father, Guy, has given up his job to spend as much time as possible with Daniel, Caleb, 14, Jordan, 12, and Logan, 9. The children know there is no good outcome for Daniel.
Things are tough financially as well as emotionally. But families have dropped off meals - much to Daniel's joy - and friends have helped in all manner of ways. Chantall has effectively become a PA, dealing with emails and calls so Chrissy and Guy can focus on the family.
Great things have come of Callum's Facebook idea. Callum and Daniel spent part of a day on the Shortland Street set and will appear as extras in an episode to screen on November 30 or December 1.
"That was the best day of my life," says the outgoing Callum. Daniel clearly enjoyed it, but you get the feeling what he enjoyed most was the chance to do something Callum really wanted to do.
What Daniel's really looking forward to - apart from the road trip - is something instigated by a former English teacher. His Year 7 English class has raised enough money to take Daniel's family, Callum and two other friends in a Hummerzine to have lunch at top restaurant Wildfire on Auckland's waterfront this weekend.
"I've never eaten there," says Daniel. "I can't wait, and travelling in the Hummerzine ... great."
Looking ahead, the Kiwiana road trip is being mapped out, with a planned departure date this month. It has been put off once after Daniel became too sick, but he has a quiet determination that it will happen.
"I want to do those things, to go to Weta Workshop in Wellington, go to Lord of the Rings places in the South Island, just to do all that with the family ... ," he says.
On the wall in the hallway of the family home is a map of New Zealand with Post-it notes showing the places Daniel wants to see and, of course, things he'd like to eat along the way.
The trip wouldn't have been possible without the donations. "People say young people are self-centred, but this has shown us there are so many young people who are anything but that ... the St Mary's kids, the Carmel College kids, the Westlake kids ... they have all raised money and spread the word, and to their parents. We are so grateful," Chrissy says.
Daniel doesn't complain a lot, apart from being annoyed about the baldness. He knows his cancer is terminal. He does have pain, but his beads of courage are testament to how he deals with it. The beads are given to children with cancer as a symbol of their strength and a reminder of what they've faced.
On the day we visit, Daniel has collected his 200th bead - for another round of radiation. All the colours signify different things - black beads are for any treatment that breaks the skin, yellow beads show each night in hospital.
There are also sibling beads of courage and Chrissy says their younger sons deserve them. On Jordan's first day at Rosmini in Year 7 in January, the focus was on Daniel who had just been diagnosed. Likewise Caleb, who has Asperger's, has had a tough time and had to switch schools.
Of course it's tough on Chrissy, too, but, like Daniel, she doesn't let on much. She's a natural nurse - caring, practical and positive. And while her vocation has its benefits, it doesn't make things easier emotionally.
"A bit of knowledge in a situation like this is not a good thing," she admits.
"When he's in hospital I've done a lot of his care and that's what I want to do. But Daniel wants to be at home, and he is going to be at home, I'll make sure of that."
And while he's there, there's nothing surer than his mate Callum, who describes Daniel as his "brother from another mother", will be there, too.
In that chair, by his side...
DONATE TO DANIEL'S KIWIANA TRIP
Daniel Baxter Fundraising Account
Like Daniel's Facebook page and give him and Callum support
Make-A-Wish has organised a 10-day holiday around the North Island for Daniel. All expenses will be paid, and he'll be doing activities (mostly food related!) in different areas on the trip. Make-A-Wish has also organised Daniel's Interislander tickets. Make-A-Wish has already sent Daniel some of his favourite pies.
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