Seeing The Positives

“Every day you can choose to get out of bed and be positive.”

Given what Cambridge’s Jan Nesbit has been through, that statement is profound.

Just over a decade ago, Jan was diagnosed with Cone-rod dystrophy, a genetic condition which effects the light sensitive cells of the retina.

The diagnosis followed hot on the heels of unrelated hip surgery and she lost the majority of her sight “quite quickly”.

Within six weeks, Jan went from being able to drive – and holding down a 50-60 hour per week job in which she travelled all throughout New Zealand and sometimes Australia – to no longer driving and “sitting at home”.

“It was just that sudden. It was pretty hard work there for a while. I won’t lie, I did howl for about three months I think.”

And then, about a year after losing her sight came more news – a diagnosis of stage four breast cancer.

She had planned to complete a University degree in Social Sciences with a counselling element, but the cancer diagnosis put paid to that.

Even in spite of all of that, Jan has an amazing outlook.

“Oh yes, I still do believe positivity is the best way to handle things.

“You can choose to get out of bed and feel sad all day, or you can choose to think ‘yippee another day, what can we do?’”

Jan has been in remission for five years.

Sharing her story in the hopes she may help spread some of that positivity, her journey is also a major reason why Jan is an avid supporter of the Blind and Low Vision New Zealand Red Puppy Appeal every year.

In 2020 the appeal will be held on March and 14.

In Cambridge collectors will be outside four locations – Countdown, The Warehouse, FreshChoice Leamington and Paper Plus.

Jan Nesbit with her guide dog Portia

“We would really love enough to get a few more guide dogs out there for people.”

Worldwide, Jan said roughly 40 out of every 100 puppies who are prospective new guide dogs go through to the training stages and then fewer still are whittled down to become fully trained guide dogs.

Jan’s dog Portia is thought to be the only currently active guide dog in Cambridge. Her previous guide dog Gretel, who she still owns, has retired.

“Gretel has taken me through my chemotherapy – everything – she’s been so loyal I could not have given her away.”

Here in town, Jan is also involved in the Cambridge Blind & Vision Impaired Support Group, which meets on every third Thursday of the month at 10am at Cambridge Baptist Church

Those who can give a few hours of their time to be a volunteer collector on either of this year’s two appeal days can call 0800 787 743 (0800 PUPPIES), or register online at

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