'Beautiful' Wellington teen dies after two-year cancer fight

Otis Hill was diagnosed with a rare cancer two years ago. Photos via NZ Herald
Otis Hill was diagnosed with a rare cancer two years ago. Photos via NZ Herald
Otis Hill, the Wellington teen who battled a terminal cancer diagnosis for two years, died in hospice care yesterday.

Seventeen-year-old Hill died surrounded by his family after being sedated on Saturday afternoon and will return to his family home in Maungaraki tomorrow.

His mother Rachel Hill told The New Zealand Herald it was “a real privilege” to be by her son’s side as he died.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted as his mum is to be there with him when he left the world. I brought him into the world with his father, of course, and so I just think it was a real privilege that I got to see him out.”

“Otis has fought cancer and it did not beat him. He beat cancer. He beat the hell out of cancer right up to the very end.”

When he died, all the staff at Te Omanga Hospice, where Hill had been for the past two weeks, lined the corridors as his body was carried out.

“The whole hospice stopped and they just came out when he left,” said Otis’ father Tyson.

Rachel described the nurses at the hospice as “angels”.

“We had a couple of incredible nurses, they really are angels. Everyone who ever met Otis fell in love with him, they really did, he just had that. He’s just so beautiful.”

Hill will be at home for five days in step with the family’s Samoan culture, during which time he will never be alone as friends and family visit to share their grief and love.

“We’re going to have a couple of nights where all his friends are just there jamming around him,” Rachel said.

“So it’s going to be a really healing process for everyone.”

On Saturday, the Hill family will have a private funeral before a second memorial service on Monday where Otis’ favourite music will be played and people can get together to remember him.

The Hill family - Tyson, Isa, Otis and Rachel.
The Hill family - Tyson, Isa, Otis and Rachel.
Otis was a talented musician and played guitar in his band Bleeding Star. He had dreams of being an audio engineer, and told the Herald last week that it was music that had kept him going for the past two years despite the cruel unfairness of his diagnosis.

In a statement posted to Instagram yesterday, Bleeding Star mourned their loss.

“There are no words to describe our feelings at the moment. We will have more to say once we have taken it all in. Thank you for your support during this time. Love you always Otis.”

Otis’ cancer journey

Hill was diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumour (DSRCT) in 2022 after a routine GP appointment. Initially, it was thought he had lymphoma - but when the real diagnosis was revealed the family was told to go home and make him comfortable as he only had months to live. Hill defied all odds and survived two years with the cancer.

DSRCT is an incredibly rare, aggressive cancer. There have been fewer than 200 cases since its discovery in 1989. It causes soft tissue sarcoma tumours to grow in the abdomen and pelvis and is most common in young men between the ages of 10 and 30.

The five-year survival rate for DSRCT is just 15 percent but because of how rare it is, the statistics are unreliable.

The family made the difficult decision to take Hill to hospice care two weeks ago after a cellulitis infection in his legs caused by fluid build-up from a bowel obstruction became impossible to treat at home.

Two years on from his February 2022 diagnosis, Otis Hill died on Monday.