Matua Andy shares a life lesson he learned at our Cancer Kōrero

by Alice Chisnall-Kalouniviti, Pūkenga Mātauranga Whakapakari (Health Promoter & nurse Educator)

The working group for the two Victory Cancer Korero Hui are (from left):  Rachel Thomas (Victory Community Centre Nurse),Miraka Norgate (Public Health), Michelle Hunt (Cancer Society), AliceChisnall-Kalouniviti (Te Piki Oranga) and Lorraine Staunton (Nurse Educator NMH).

‘Better late than never’, is a phrase that has new meaning for 82-year-old Kaumatua Andy Joseph these days.

Tasked with opening a recent cancer awareness campaign for Māori, Matua Andy had no idea an information hui would lead him to specialist treatment for prostate issues that same week.

“Cancer Kōrero”, a public wananga developed and run by Cancer Nurse Specialist Lorraine Staunton, with support from DHB Health Promoter Miraka Norgate and Nurse Educator Alice Chisnall-Kalouniviti from Te Piki Oranga was run at the Victory Community Centre for those wanting to learn more about Cancer, it’s treatments, to help whānau living with or trying to avoid cancer. Matua Andy says he officially opened the very first wananga, and while talking with the audience, found himself flipping through the accompanying panui (booklet). He was shocked to discover a checklist of cancer symptoms had been plaguing him for some time, but he hadn’t understood their significance. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” he says. “Every item on that page I could relate to. Since then, I’ve been through all the process, and today, I owe so much to that hui that night. I was meant to come, there’s no question.”

Thankfully, the post-wananga check up with Urologist Dr Andy Malcolm turned up nothing serious, but Matua Andy says he’ll be taking his health more seriously from now on. He encourages all Māori to take part in Cancer Kōrero to get to know the signs and symptoms of a disease that touches the lives of almost everyone in our community. “Knowing what to look for and who to turn to for awhina is so vital for our people,” Matua Andy says. “Realise that no matter how brave or strong you are, there are things happening in your body you don’t know about.” He’s especially strong on tāne having regular check-ups, and not being too proud to see a nurse or doctor. “Men bluff a lot, they don’t want to be seen as baby-faced. They say ‘I can beat this, I can fix it’. But there are times when you need to listen to your mate or your wife or your grandmother.”

Following support and advice from the Māori Cancer team, Uncle Andy is thrilled to report he’s in better shape now than he has been in years. “Now I sleep well – no more getting up ten times a night to mimi (urinate) - I’m down to 80kgs and I go for a walk as often as I can.”

Matua Andy Joseph with TPO RN Alice Chisnall-Kalouniviti at the Cancer Kōrero.

Matua Andy Joseph with TPO RN Alice Chisnall-Kalouniviti at the Cancer Kōrero.

Matua Andy was ordained as an Anglican minister in 1982 after running a furniture business in Golden Bay for many years. Originally from Te Kuiti, Uncle Andy has been tireless in his support and community work with local Māori. He says he’ll happily support the Cancer Kōrero going nationwide, and will attend to talk to whānau about his own experiences with the Cancer pathway. “We need to be mindful that there are people in the health field who have expertise and we need to take time to listen.”