Kiri in fight of her life
EAST COAST Member of Parliament Kiri Allan faces the fight of her life after being diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer.
Cabinet Minister Ms Allan shared the news today on her social media accounts, going into depth about what she had experienced so far and imploring women to get regular smear tests.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today that Ms Allan was taking medical leave from work and acting ministers would be appointed on her behalf.
Kris Faafoi will be Acting Minister of Emergency Management, Ayesha Verrall will be Acting Minister of Conservation and Peeni Henare will be Acting Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.
Ms Allan said Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri and Labour List MP Tamati Coffey would help with her East Coast electorate duties.
Ms Allan wrote openly about her recent health issues, diagnosis and reaction.
The last smear test she had was inspired by Smear Your Mea founder Talei Morrison just before she died from cervical cancer.
“She rallied her whanau, her friends, the kapa haka community and ultimately New Zealand to campaign for women, and particularly Maori women, to get their smear tests done regularly,” said Ms Allan.
“I’m one of those gals who hates anything to do with ‘down there’ and have taken a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’-type approach to that part of my body.
“Talei’s call to wahine and whanau to get tested was the push I needed to get it done.
“Time passes. Work piles on. Going to the doctor for anything other then an emergency goes way down the priority list.”
During her election campaign last year, she suffered a lot of pain in her back, stomach and legs which she put down to driving and general stress.
Her partner gave her massages and “I forgot about it”.
However, earlier this year she found it hard to sit for lengthy periods and nothing eased the pain.
“In late January, I started menstruating and it didn’t stop.
“In hindsight, there were lots of opportunities to go touch base with a doctor but I didn’t. I put it down to work and being on the go, and that stuff usually sorts itself out.”
After menstruating for about four weeks, she went to her GP.
“She had a good look at me and tried me on some medication.”
After six weeks with no change, Ms Allan spoke with fellow minister, doctor and friend Ayesha Verrall.
“She urged me to ‘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.”
The ultrasound initially found a three-centimetre growth, probably benign but the doctor made arrangements for her to go to hospital the following day.
“That happened to be the day of the tsunamis and earthquakes,” said Ms Allan, who is the Minister for Emergency Management.
“I found myself managing the earthquakes early morning, then headed to hospital for another ultrasound at about 8am — just before the large evacuation notice . . . This was a longer ultrasound than the previous day and they took a number of smears and biopsies as well.”
The growth was six centimetres but again “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 (media) stand-up at the Beehive.”
The following week she got a call saying the smears had shown an abnormal result and she needed to go in again for a colposcopy.
“Some days later, I went in for the procedure but the vibe of the consultation felt more serious than the rest.
By this stage of testing she had formed “a sweet little team”, including partner Mani, Ms Allan’s parents and friends, to help her navigate meetings and provide moral and spiritual support.
When the doctor was doing the colposcopy, she noted there were abnormal cells showing and took another biopsy to test.
“She said the results would take a while, so I wasn’t expecting any further news until a few weeks later.
“A handful of days later, I was jumping off a flight to Auckland and I saw I had a missed call from the doctor with a text follow-up to give her a call.”
Ms Allan was expecting good news but was told the colposcopy revealed she had cervical cancer.
“The ‘C’ Word hits you like a jolt I had never experienced.
“I gripped the wall in the airport. I calmed myself down before being met by Huia — one of my DoC staff — and my driver, who were taking me to an event.
“In the car, I called my dad first. Mum was listening in on speakerphone. And I lost it.”
She was dropped off at her parents’ house and spent the night with her best friend, partner and a cousin, “watching stupid stuff on Netflix”.
Since then, it had been a whirlwind of MRIs, PET-CT scans, and preparing for chemo and radiotherapy, and any other therapy needed.
Ms Allan said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had been “a mate throughout the whole process”.
“I cried telling her the night I found out and her words were profound. I’ll always have so much respect for the way she’s dealt with me over this past couple of weeks or so . . .
“I’ve told a few folks by now, and often the question is, ‘is there anything I can do?’
“My answer now is ‘yes’.
“Please encourage your sisters, your mothers, your daughters, your friends. Please #SmearYourMea. It may save your life . . .
“For now, my whanau and I are requesting a bit of privacy while we come to terms with the challenge ahead.
“Heoi ano, arohanui from me to all of you (for now).”