Ngā mihi nui. Ngā mihi aroha whānau.
Cyril, 70 from Invercargill first tried smoking when he was six years old. Cyril would watch his parents smoke when down on the Mutton Bird Islands or on the mainland. “I was fascinated by my old man as he used to get the tobacco in his hands and scrub it up then put it in papers.”
At age six, when down on the Mutton Bird Islands, Cyril and his cousin grabbed some smokes from his mum and went down to the rocks. “We put the smokes in our mouths, lit it up and cough, cough and thought this is cool! I carried on and that initial taste and initial cough was the start of my smoking career.”
In the early 70s and 80s, Cyril would go to the pub or parties, taking along a nebuliser machine he had purchased from a pharmacy. He would sit close to a power socket so he could plug the machine in. “When I got wheezy I’d put the mask on and have a few hooks of the old oxygen, then have another smoke and drink.” Cyril smoked two and a half to three packs a day. “I don’t know how I could have afforded them. When they got too expensive I got it down to 2 packs a day. I struggled along the way, but I managed to keep smoking.”
Cyril went on to smoke for around 40 years. On 23 December 1999 his brother died. “I didn’t know he had been told to stop smoking or he’d be dead by Christmas. That was a shock to me and everyone else.” After his tangi, and in January 2000 Cyril decided to stop smoking. His friends left for the Mutton Bird Islands for three months, and Cyril stayed behind on the mainland and used that time to stop. Using a nicotine patch and determination Cyril was smokefree by the time his friends returned to the mainland. “If I hadn’t given up I’d have been dead by 2005. Thank God I did knock off the smokes.”
Ten years ago Cyril was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), a term for damage to the lungs which makes breathing difficult. This diagnosis hasn’t stopped Cyril from living an active life. For the last 29 years he has been very active on the marae. In the last couple of years he has become more breathless and just in the last four weeks things changed somewhat with Cyril now on oxygen 16 hours a day. “Now I am on oxygen my whole life has changed as I can’t do much after 5pm. I have to go home and have my oxygen. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody because it hinders your life. The way I see it, it’s the beginning of the end. This is a progression from smoking.”
Even though Cyril has COPD it hasn’t stopped him from being active on the marae. “Mate, I am still here. Working on the marae keeps me going all day long. Still active, still plenty to do, and I’m looking forward to Steptember. Ka pai!”
“Kia ora whanau. All I can say to you all is KAORE KI TE HIKARETI - don't even think of smoking. Hei konei ra”.