October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Māori women are still disproportionately represented in breast cancer death rates.

Shona Kelway, a Māori survivor says it’s vital for wāhine Māori to put themselves first, so they can play their vital roles within whānau.

“When they did the mammograms and the biopsies they found I had cancer in both breasts, so I did a double mastectomy.”

She is an advocate for breast cancer awareness and says it took strength and courage to fight the disease.

“I found the lump myself, but I was due to have a mammogram two month after I was diagnosed.

“I was diagnosed in July 2016, so it’s been a bit of a journey.”

Statistics say that one Māori woman is diagnosed with cancer each day and they also die at a higher rate than non-Māori.

Despite all the ads and campaigns for women to get their breasts checked, Kelway says more can be done to ensure women understand what the sickness means and its treatment options.

“Surgery, chemo, radiotherapy - I did all three of those.

“It took about a year for all surgeries and treatments and it takes its toll, but I’d rather be here now than think of what could have happened had I not.”

Kelway is grateful to have survived and looked forward to spending the time with her family.