Wellington, April 6, 2021
Conservation and Emergency Management Minister and East Coast Labour MP Kiritapu Allan has revealed that she has been diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she was gutted by the news after Allan’s public announcement sparked an outpouring of support from her Party colleagues.
Her comments were echoed by National Party Leader Judith Collins, who said that Allan’s public declaration was very brave and would inspire others.
Dedication and courage
“The fact that she had to deal with the Civil Defence issues, while she knew this was all happening really does speak volumes about her dedication and courage,” she said.
In a Facebook post this morning, the emergency management and conservation minister said she was diagnosed last week, and the fight of her life has now begun.
Ms Allan said, “Last year, during the campaign, I noticed I was getting a lot of pain in my back, stomach and legs. I put it down to lots of driving, working long hours and the general stress of campaigns. Earlier this year, I realised that I was finding it hard to sit for a lengthy period of time. Always in a bit of pain. I started running to try and move the lower back area a little bit. Nothing seemed to take the pain away,” she said.
Ms Allan said that in late January in the car, she began menstruating and it didn’t stop.
“At about six weeks of menstruating with no change since the GP visit, I raised it with my colleague and friend Ayesha Verrall who is a doctor, asking if the bleeding was a little odd. She asked a few more questions and I told her about the pain. She urged me, pleaded with me, ‘Kiri, please, please, please prioritise this and go to the doctor tomorrow.’ She made some recommendations and the next day I found myself having an ultrasound,” she said.
Ms Allan said that the ultrasound found a three centimetre growth and her doctor made arrangements to go to hospital the next day for a follow up.
That day happened to be when three large earthquakes struck off the coast of New Zealand.
“I found myself managing the earthquakes early morning, then headed the hospital for another ultrasound at about 8am (just before the large evacuation notice – poor timing!).
“They found the growth was approximately 6cm but likely benign. We had a chat about options for removal. By and large, things seemed ok and I could get back to work that day. So I arrived back just in time for the 11.30am stand up at the Beehive.”
Colposcopy reveals bad news
Allan said she then had to undergo a colposcopy.
“A handful of days later, I was jumping off a flight from Christchurch where I had been doing an RMA meeting and launching a community waterways partnership project, into Auckland where I was off to launch a Kiwis for Kiwi project with Sir John Key and Helen Clark the co-ambassadors for the project.
“I saw I had a missed call from the doctor with a text follow up to give her a call. I called back, going down the escalator stairs and the sound was rubbish. I skirted off to a corner to take the call properly, expecting good news.
“However, my kind doctor, who had been so incredible and taken calls from my family in the evenings, called to say the colposcopy had revealed I had cervical cancer.”
Ardern feels gutted
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “As a friend and a colleague I’ve been gutted by the news, her whole team is. But we are also so heartened by the character, the person that Kiri is. Right from the outset she has shown a level of determination to focus on her health and wellbeing, but to ultimately come back and be a part of the team,” she said.
Mr Ardern said that their focus was to make sure that Ms Allan was prioritising herself.
“Allan fronting the public through a Civil Defence emergency while in the middle of her diagnosis had been exceptional. “As I saw the praise for her management of that, I thought if only people knew what else she was dealing with, it was remarkable, but she is remarkable,” she said.
Doctor and Minister for Food Safety Ayesha Verrall, Ms Allan had consulted about her symptoms, was visibly upset as she spoke about the confirmed diagnosis.
“I am really, really sad for my friend. Kiri told me about not feeling unwell and I encouraged her to get her symptoms checked. Cervical cancer is a really nasty disease, and it strikes women right in the middle of their lives when they have so much to give to their communities and their families,” she said.
Smear test recommended
Dr Verrall encouraged women to take two vital steps, get the vaccination and ensure that their smear tests were up to date.
Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson said that he was shocked and saddened to hear the news.
“She is a wonderful performer and we are very proud of her in terms of her contribution for our people. We are having a karakia for her; she is strong and we are hopeful,” he said.
Family comes first
Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti, who had her own battle with breast cancer, said that she was devastated.
Her advice to Ms Allan was to forget about Parliament and put herself and her whanau first.
“She has got every bit of my support that I possibly can give.”
Reflecting on her own diagnosis, she said, “It’s a really terrible time. Just that sense of unbelief… I know exactly how she is feeling at this time,” she said.
Ms Allan said that she was taking medical leave to focus on “the fight I have ahead of me.”
She said that she and her Whanau are requesting privacy while they come to terms with the challenge ahead.
Her portfolios have been distributed between Kris Faafoi and Dr Ayesha Verrall.
-Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz