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Young dad with terminal brain cancer dies a week after wedding

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 2 Apr 2024, 8:35PM
Nykalah Garrett and Rikki Tako with their children.
Nykalah Garrett and Rikki Tako with their children.

Young dad with terminal brain cancer dies a week after wedding

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 2 Apr 2024, 8:35PM

A young Taranaki dad diagnosed with terminal brain cancer following a workplace incident has died a week after his wedding.

Rikki Tako, 32, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer – glioblastoma brain stem tumour – shortly after being hit in the head in a workplace incident at his job in New Plymouth late last year.

Tako passed away on March 26, just a week after he married partner Nykalah Garrett at a beach near New Plymouth.

Speaking to the Herald last month, Garrett said she had quit her job as a registered nurse to take care of him full-time, because it was the “right thing to do”.

“I’m exhausted and it’s an ongoing battle, really – with no kind of hope on the other side of the tunnel,” she said.

Rikki Tako, 32, was diagnosed with a cancer known as brain stem glioblastoma.
Rikki Tako, 32, was diagnosed with a cancer known as brain stem glioblastoma.

Garrett explained their everyday routine, which started when Tako woke up any time between 4am and 6am.

“He kind of figures his day out – or tries to. I get up then I get the kids ready, I make sure Rikki’s alright, I drop the kids off [to school] and then we normally have hospice appointments.

“I try to walk the dogs so they’re not in Rikki’s face, Rikki has a rest, pick up the kids, take the kids to sports, come home, do dinner, make sure Rikki’s alright and by then Rikki’s kind of lost his balance... and so I’m helping him.”

The couple had been together for eight years and have four children.

Nykalah Garrett and Rikki Tako with their children.
Nykalah Garrett and Rikki Tako with their children.

After the devastating diagnosis, Tako was forced to leave his job. Garrett’s 16-year-old brother, who is under their care, tried to leave school to find a job to help but the couple refused as they want him to finish his studies.

They were receiving some assistance from Work and Income, but Garrett said they were struggling financially.

“It’s definitely rough and exhausting.”

More than $40,000 was donated to the family through a Givealittle page set up to “help ease the financial burden for this young family facing a devastating future”.

Garrett said there needed to be more health and hospice assistance available to Māori. Tako has roots to Ngāti Porou.

For many Māori, having a health worker come in to provide care for them was a no-go because of cultural protocols and reasons, she said.

“He’s only 32 years old. He doesn’t want a random coming in doing these things for him. It’s about respecting his dignity.”

Just a few months ago, they were doing well and working towards purchasing a home of their own. They had big dreams and were excited for the future.

“We were about to be in a position to buy our own house, but then this all happened. Our life was just starting out,” she said.

“He was just starting his own concrete cutting company, I was working and we were just starting that next chapter of our lives.”

Speaking about her partner, she said he was trying hard to be strong for them.

“He’s trying to. But it’s breaking him – as it would anyone. He’s young and so a lot of his friends have just disappeared because they’re scared and don’t understand because it’s not something that you expect at this age.”

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