NZ minister returns after cancer scare

·2-min read

With a lighter load but a renewed vigour, New Zealand Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has returned to work after a cancer battle.

Ms Allan took leave in April after receiving a stage three cervical cancer diagnosis and a terrible chance for recovery.

"They said for somebody with stage 3C you have a 40 per cent chance of survival," she told The Hui television in May.

"As a wahine Maori (Maori woman) I have about a 13.3 per cent chance of survival."

On her return to Parliament House in Wellington on Monday, the 37-year-old said she underwent nine weeks of invasive treatment, which she described as "a little rough" in typically stoic style.

"The recovery went exceptionally well ... the medical team have said I'm right to go," she said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed her back, saying she was inspired by Ms Allan's recovery.

"But she inspired me before her diagnosis as well," she said.

"To have her walk back into cabinet and take her seat and resume the position that she had was a really fantastic moment."

Over the last three months, the much-loved East Coast MP has led a campaign to raise awareness of cervical cancer, taking Kiwis inside her treatment and recovery on social media.

She has given voice to the Smear Your Mea (mea meaning 'thing', slang for vagina) campaign, urging Kiwis to carry out regular pap smears.

"That was something I was scared to do," she said.

"In my case it was getting a smear test ... whether it's your mammograms, your prostate checks, whatever it is, mental health, getting the support that we all need to be healthy.

"That's a gift that we can give to our whanau (family)."

The government committed $NZ53 million ($A50 million) towards cervical cancer preventative measures in May's budget.

Ms Allan said she had been overwhelmed and humbled by the support she received during her ordeal.

"I was brought to tears frequently by the love and care and compassion for people of all walks of life. That was something that I hadn't expected," she said.

"For me personally, it really was a wake-up call for a lot of reordering of priorities.

"Coming back to work, there is a real fervent fire in my belly, to get back into the mahi (work)."

Ms Allan held two portfolios prior to her leave: conservation and emergency management.

However, Kris Faafoi will hold onto the emergency management portfolio after acting in the role during Ms Allan's absence.

"That was my decision," Ms Ardern said, "that we just hold off on handing that portfolio back over."

"To ensure that she's getting back into the swing of things without having their on-call role on top of everything else," she said.

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