'It's demoralising': Kiwi newsreader Michael Kooge forced to self-fund vital brain cancer treatment

A Kiwi newsreader forced to self-fund his brain cancer treatment has launched an art exhibition to raise money to pay for his survival. 

In the wake of doctors telling Michael Kooge that he had limited time left, sharing his artwork became even more important to him. 

Kooge was diagnosed with glioblastoma - a form of aggressive brain cancer - in June 2017. A sudden and devastating moment arriving only a few years after overcoming melanoma and getting his life back on track.

He now says he can "die happy" after being given the chance to showcase his work at Framing Matters gallery in Auckland's Parnell - but he wishes he didn't have to do it to save his life.

Kooge using precious energy to come up with means to fund his much-needed cancer treatment.
Kooge using precious energy to come up with means to fund his much-needed cancer treatment. Photo credit: Newshub.

"It means a lot to me to have my work chosen by art professionals and displayed for family, friends and public alike to enjoy and purchase to have as part of their lives in their own home spaces," he told Newshub. 

Hosting an exhibition has been on his bucket list since he was a kid but he never thought his opportunity to make it happen would come at such a frustrating time. 

For monthly chemotherapy, Kooge uses the subsidised drug Temozolomide which he says has some "crazy" side-effects. An alternative - Avastin - isn't funded by Pharmac, costing tens of thousands of dollars on top of the infusion process, meaning it's not a viable option.

"Avastin for me would cost $35,000 every six months and would be an ongoing cost for as long as I live," he says. 

His artwork (pictured) is on display at Framing Matters in Auckland's Parnell.
His artwork (pictured) is on display at Framing Matters in Auckland's Parnell. Photo credit: Supplied / Michael Kooge.

Without private health insurance, he also uses a Givealittle page to try raise money. But it's not just the list of treatments and drugs that require cash. His father has also been diagnosed with cancer - an added pressure during a tough time.

He wants to try to give himself the best chance at living but can't help but feel let down by the Government.

"It is very hard to get your head around that you are not worth it enough to save. I know of course that there are so many kiwis in the same boat too," he says. 

The radio personality and his recognisable voice would be known to many who have tuned in to Kooge reading the news bulletin on The Edge each morning over 10 years. He still can be heard on a string of MediaWorks shows, now not as frequently as he would like to. 

The newsreader's voice is well-known to many following his 10-year spot on The Edge's Jay-Jay, Mike and Dom show.
The newsreader's voice is well-known to many following his 10-year spot on The Edge's Jay-Jay, Mike and Dom show. Photo credit: Supplied.

He says it feels "demoralising" to have to use the valuable, little energy he has left to come up with measures to fund the care needed to prolong his life. 

"I know how business and budgets work and the country has to draw the line somewhere to look after all it's people, but when it's just right there and achievable if we just could afford it, it's heartbreaking," he explains. 

"I hate the fact I have to constantly beg for my life or think of ways to save more and more dollars that I don't even have coming in any way as I can't work." 

Kooge says the sickness benefit is "only a drop in the bucket" and it will never be enough for the necessary treatments he relies on. 

"It is very hard to get your head around that you are not worth it enough to save."
"It is very hard to get your head around that you are not worth it enough to save." Photo credit: Supplied / Michael Kooge.

The opportunity to share his art while raising money has proven to be beneficial in achieving two important feats at once but having to do it in a moment of desperation has been hard. 

He has been an amateur photographer ever since he was a kid and has taken a special appreciation for 35mm film. He says there's nothing like the surprise of getting back a roll of film from the developer and seeing the results, finding beauty in the ordinary and ignored.  

"I love cinematic photography and the quality of how the photos turn out instead of how digital comes out. It's magical and nostalgic for me - reminds me of my childhood." 

The process of selling his pieces has been truly a turning point. It means so much to him that people appreciate his creative eye. 

"It's a bittersweet moment being able to tick off a life-long bucket list item, I am truly humbled but also saddened that it has to come to this." 

Kooge’s exhibition is on now until November 9 (excluding Sunday) at Artmount And Framing Matters Gallery, 93 The Strand, Parnell, Auckland where you can view and purchase limited edition framed works with all money going to help fund treatment. 

Newshub.

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