By Ra Hippolite, Kaiwhakahaere Hangarau (IT/Contracts Manager)
In September 2017, I had the privilege and pleasure to accompany my father Ratapu Hippolite Sr. to Buck Shelford’s Parakuihi (Breakfast) at Tahunanui Function Centre where he talked about his cancer journey.
Kia Ora Dad, “Do you want to go to Buck Shelford’s breakfast with me?”
“Sure” was the response.
“Great I’ll pick you up at 7:45 this Saturday”.
I arrive early as I know Dad will be ready. We get to the function centre and the carpark is already full. Upon entering the centre, we are welcomed by Lorraine and her crew to collect named tickets for spot prizes. I introduce Dad to Nelson Marlborough Health and Te Piki Oranga kaimahi who are serving or have brought whānau to listen to Buck. A tane from Matiki Mai is waiting inside to sit with us for parakuihi. Getting to our table we frequently stop to mihi to kaumatua, kaimahi and a politician who was strangely quiet amongst these Aotearoa icons.
A wairua exists in this room as it begins to fill. I notice they are mostly Tane, some of which are Māori as they murmur quietly to each other. Our table is the loudest and has the most wāhine around it. Dad is beaming as he sits soaking it all in.
Buck arrives and most people stare. He is not as big as the mana he holds steadily within himself. The steely gaze is still there. Bring it on Buck.
Uncle Andy who is always good for a funny story opens us beautifully with a mihi and karakia. As one the Māori stand and sing his waiata.
One by one the tables go to the other room to serve ourselves parakuihi except for the bacon which is placed carefully at the top of the kai by the ringawera. Juggling dishes and cups, we make it back to our table. Tino pai nga kai, he reka.
Emcee Dr. Alex Brown opens us up again and apologises for being late, turns out he is Te Ati Awa and his reo flows astonishing more than one. He introduced a colleague Tim Phillips who is a doctor practicing in Mapua. Turns out that he too is Māori.
He catches my attention by stating “Doctors are not gods. Aue they just have the best union. If you don’t like the advice you are getting, go to another doctor the same way you would if you were talking to a mechanic”.
He later describes the function of the prostate. “It determines whether you are coming or going”. Did he just say that? Even Dad’s smile hasn’t changed.
His kōrero was engaging and I heard at least one tane say I want him to be my doctor. Now it’s Buck’s turn. He is still a strapping specimen of Tane and looks very much an All Black rangatira.
This is the rangatira who changed the ferocity of the All Blacks performing our haka. The man who had his scrotum ripped open and 4 teeth knocked out by the French, gets it stitched back up and returns to the field. Aue!
He talks about his cancer journey and how he came to be travelling Aotearoa on this kaupapa, Tane health. He tells us the importance of communicating with your closest and dearest whānau whilst on that journey. He relates that being an All Black enabled certain privileges, like immediate appointments and candid discussions with doctors like John Mayhew when determining his cancer pathway.
He talks about supermarkets and the sugar trap of the middle aisles. He tells us that he does a major sport event like a triathlon or marathon with his wahine every two years. He goes to the gym regularly and notices the lycra, some of which is very nice lycra. His talks about his body weight which was 145 kg before his cancer journey to now being 2 kgs off his playing weight.
His best story for me was when the All Blacks were getting beaten by a very good Australian side and in particular a rangy forward who was stealing all our ball and making a nuisance of himself. How he organised Loe and himself to pin the Aussies’ arms whilst Stevie McDowell was to come in for the king hit, only to have Sean Fitzpatrick walk in front of Stevie and cop it instead. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer fella”, his words.
One other point of note. Thank you to our Te Piki Oranga kaimahi Gaynor Rikihana and Lydia Mains for giving a clinical perspective about TPO, and to almost everybody in the room who stood up to sing Whakāria mai for the closing waiata.
Tu meke Whakatū.