Labour MP Kiri Allan has announced she's taking medical leave from Parliament after being diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer.
The 37-year-old MP for the East Coast is calling it the "fight of my life", revealing a six-centimetre-long tumour was discovered the same day she led the country through a tsunami and evacuation alert in March.
She says she was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer last week; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed she'll be taking a medical leave of absence.
"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 says.
"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.
Detailing her cancer diagnosis, Allan says the news "hits you like a jolt I had never experienced.
She was at the airport, on the way to an event in Auckland for a Kiwis for Kiwi project launch when her doctor called.
"In the car, I called my dad first. Mum was listening in on speaker phone. And I lost it. In the car. On the way to the event," she says.
"The Boss, Jacinda has been a mate, a colleague and my boss through this 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. A text away - always."
Allan admits she's someone who's previously taken "a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ type approach to that part of my body".
She says she was experiencing pain in her back, stomach and legs during the election campaign but put it aside.
"In late January I started menstruating and it didn’t stop," Allan says
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 went to a doctor a month later and, two weeks after that, went back after encouragement from fellow Labour MP and doctor Ayesha Verrall.
An ultrasound found a three-centimetre growth, later discovered to be six centimetres long.
"That day also happened to be the day of the tsunamis and earthquakes. I found myself managing the earthquakes early morning, then headed the hospital for another ultra sound at about 8am (just before the large evacuation notice - poor timing!)," she says.
"They found the growth was approx 6 cm 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."
It wasn't found to be cancerous until several weeks later, once again while she was working — during the Kiwis for Kiwi event.
"Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of MRIs, CT PET scans, and preparing for chemo and radiotherapy, and any other therapy I’ll need," Allan says.
"I want to thank my colleagues for their support, and especially Meka and Tamati who will be helping to take over my local electorate duties in the East Coast."
In her own statement this morning, Ardern has offered a message of support to Allan, calling her "not just a colleague, but a friend".
"This news has been devastating. But I also know that Kiri is a person of determination, and as we've talked over the past few days I can hear how focused she is on her treatment, and ultimately her return," Ardern says.
"Kiri's Parliamentary family will do everything possible to support her during her treatment and recovery."
Acting ministers have been assigned to take over her appointments as Conservation Minister, Emergency Management Minister and Associate Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage.
Kris Faafoi has been appointed Acting Minister of Emergency Management, Ayesha Verrall will be the Acting Minister of Conservation and Peeni Henare will be Acting Associate Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage, Ardern has confirmed.
As Emergency Management Minister, Allan shot to stardom for her calm, Te Ao Māori-focused response to the nationwide tsunami alert in March following an earthquake off the east coast.