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I’m sort of the joker of the group. I try to keep everybody entertained and take their mind off what they’ve got. They need to have a good yarn and meet people.


Daily dose of humour helps

Henare’s story

They say laughter is the best medicine, and after having a yarn with Henare Nikora from Kaikohe it is clear he believes in a daily dose of humour and hope.

Sixty-three-year-old Henare (Ngā Puhi) was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in September last year (2022). He had his first round of radiation treatment in December and a second course in July this year.

During his second-to-last radiation treatment just prior to Christmas he says he had to be revived after nearly dying due to complications with pneumonia. His son Joseph, who has cared for his father since Henare’s stroke six years ago, was told by the doctor his Dad might not make it.

“After recovering I opened my eyes and could feel something in my face and it was my son’s face. I poked it to make sure it was real and said, ‘You alright boy?’”.

When his son told him that he had proven the doctor’s prediction wrong, Henare replied:

“’I think I caught the wrong bus son. I had my wings clipped before I even got there.’ I tried to break the tension. That’s the type of person that I am. I worry about it but then I try and find the thing to get rid of that thought out of my head.”

Following his first round of treatment Henare started attending a community-lead cancer support group that meets every fortnight at Cafe Malaahi in Kaikohe and is attended by Cancer Society staff, and in between weeks he catches up kanohi ki te kanohi (one on one) with Kerikeri-based Cancer Support Nurse Specialist Jenny Coleman.

“I’m glad I go to these meetings ‘cause I didn’t know about a lot of stuff through the Cancer Society that can help. I try to get those I know have got cancer to get along and let them know what’s out there for us.”

Henare says sharing your experience and connecting with others going through a cancer journey can make things seem a little less scary.

“There was one old fella that was going through cancer and I could see he was worried. So, I sat with him and just yarned with him. You know by the end of our meeting he wasn’t as bad as what he was when he got there. I had just finished my treatment and he was going to get his treatment done so I just give him a few pointers.”

In addition to sharing his cancer experience Henare likes to share a story and a laugh.

“I’m sort of the joker of the group. I try to keep everybody entertained and take their mind off what they’ve got. They need to have a good yarn and meet people.”

Henare is keen to host a support group at Okorihi Marae, his local marae.

“A lot of our people are frightened to come to these sort of things. They’re frightened and there’s a lot of whānau that have cancer in their family and won’t say anything about it and don’t let on to anybody that they’ve got it. They don’t like to sit in a room with people who are dying. I’ll soon get them out of that attitude just you watch.”