Trans-Tasman bubble gives Jay Rawiri-Pukeroa a way home

By Tumamao Harawira

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble was exciting for many Kiwis and Aussies. But for the Rawiri-Pukeroa family, it meant bringing home son Jay, who is suffering from cancer.

Dennis Pukeroa, Jay's father, says, "I was at home and my wife (Vivienne Rawiri-Pukeroa) was over there with our son and so was our son, Josh who lives in Australia. But it was great to hear the news,  about coming home."

At the beginning of this year, Jay Rawiri-Pukeroa was diagnosed with lung cancer. Doctors have said that it's terminal.

Jay, who has spent much of his life in Brisbane, says it was a big shock getting that news from the doctors.

"It was like a relief really, especially when you don't have to quarantine, you don't have to pay the extra money. But as soon as we heard the date for the bubble it was pretty much good timing really.

Everything was just new to me. I was quite shocked. Having this lung cancer, and not smoking and drinking, puts me in this 'how did I get this?'. I'm healthy, fit, working."

Praise for medical teams

Jay was looked after by the doctors at the Northern Beaches Hospital and Royal North Shore in Sydney and Jay's parents Dennis and Vivienne said they were grateful to the staff.

"The medical staff in Australia was wonderful. They took good care of our son, and my wife while they were over there," Dennie said. "I was at home and my wife was over there with our son and so was our son, Josh, who lives in Australia. It was great to hear the news of the bubble."

For members of this whānau, their belief system plays a big role. Jay says, "After all the double-checking of the results and all the CT scans and everything, they gave me a time frame of how long I was supposed to live and they said a few weeks, and that didn't bother me, you know? Because I knew through the religion I follow, I knew where I was going to go. It's not up to me or the doctors. At the end of the day, it's up to our heavenly father."

Go get checked

Vivienne left New Zealand to go be with their son in Australia. "At the time when we first got the news of the first tumour on the back of his brain, and I couldn't go over then, and my son had spoken to me to stay there and just wait - because I can't come over anyway due to Covid-19."

Dennis says it was a tough time for him and his wife. "My wife and I hadn't been apart ever. It was the first time since we have been married - 40-odd years. She was away for three months, and it was a hard three  months for me, but it was also consoling for me to know my wife was over there with our boy."

Jay's sister, Candace, says "It definitely brought us all closer together, on a good note and a sad note, and it's definitely good to see my brothers - it's been a while."

Health statistics show Māori adults aged 25 and over have significantly higher cancer registration rates than non-Māori adults. The total cancer mortality rate among Māori adults is more than 1.5 times higher than among non-Māori.

So, for Jay and his whānau, it's very important to tell Māori men to go see the doctor, and to get over the pride that holds Māori men back.

Jay's message: "Just go and get yourself checked. I just had a headache. But once I started going blind I knew something was wrong. I knew I had to go and get checked out."

Over the coming days the whānau will go from Huntly to Northland to see their Ngāti Kahu family.