Wed, 7 Apr, 2021

"Hits you like a jolt": Politician shares warning signs she ignored before heartbreaking diagnosis

"Hits you like a jolt": Politician shares warning signs she ignored before heartbreaking diagnosis

New Zealand’s minister for Emergency Management made a stark confession just weeks after addressing the nation in the face of a major tsunami and earthquake threat.

Not many saw or knew of Kiri Allen’s personal struggles, that is until she revealed she had been diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer in a raw and emotional Facebook post.

Addressing her 20,000 followers, the politician admitted that just a day before the earthquakes, her doctors told her they had found a 3cm growth.

"I found myself managing the earthquakes early morning, then headed to the hospital for another ultra sound at about 8am, just before the large evacuation notice. Poor timing," she wrote.

"This was a longer ultra-scan then the previous day and they took a number of smears and biopsies as well. They found the growth was approximately 6cm but likely benign."

The Labor MP said she’d had a consistent pain in her back, stomach and legs that concerned her to begin with.

"I put it down to lots of driving, working long hours and the general stress of campaigns etc - so, I got my partner to give me a few mirimiri and forgot about it," she wrote.

"Earlier this year, I realised 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. In late January I started menstruating and it didn't stop."

The politician admitted to taking a "see no evil, hear no evil" approach to pap smears.

"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 was on the go, and 'that stuff usually sorts itself out'," she wrote.

However, after Allen revealed her situation to Ayesha Verrall, a colleague, friend and doctor, about whether the bleeding was "a little odd", she was hit with a serious reality check.

"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'," Allan wrote.

Allan said a week later, she received a call telling her that the pap smear had shown an abnormal result and she required a colposcopy.

"It sounded OK, my cousin had had one and it was just a precautionary thing I thought. I told my family and they called the Dr to ask a few questions. She was amazing and took my family's call to explain the process," Allan wrote.

She found out a few days later the lifechanging news.

"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," Allan wrote.

"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.

"The 'C' word hits you like a jolt I had never experienced. I gripped the wall in the airport."

Allan told readers that she had confided in her parents over the phone while on the way to an event.

"I lost it. In the car. On the way to the event. Huia's intuition kicked in, cancelling the event while I fell apart in the car. I was dropped at my parents place," Allan wrote.

She spent the night surrounded by family and her partner, crying and watching TV.

Allan said she cried telling New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about her diagnosis.

"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. A text away – always," Allan wrote.

Ardern said she was left "gutted" by Allan's news, but was “also so heartened by the character, the person that Kiri is.

"Right from the outset, she's shown a level of determination to focus on her health and wellbeing. But to ultimately come back and be a part of the team again.

"Our focus now, as her colleagues and friends, are to make sure she looks after herself first and foremost, and that we're here ready and waiting when she's able to return."

Allan revealed that she would be taking medical leave to focus on her health.

"I've told a few folks by now, and often the question is, 'is there anything I can do?' My answer now is yes," Allan wrote.

"Please, please, please - encourage your sisters, your mothers, your daughters, your friends - please #SmearYourMea - it may save your life - and we need you right here."