Terminally ill mother raises breast cancer awareness

Each year, more than 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with breast cancer. It is New Zealand's third most common cancer and accounts for 600 deaths every year.  Moana Te Orewa Papa has been diagnosed with terminal secondary breast cancer. Now she fights every day in the hope of educating and motivating Māori women to have check-ups. 

Moana is one of the 650 women in New Zealand diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. The New Zealand Cancer foundation says it's incurable.

“A lot of people think and the look at me and they say I look well but they don't know that I'm on continuous pain treatment and that I am doing chemo every week just to stay alive.”

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and overcame it through a combination of treatments only to find out in 2014 it had spread aggressively.

“I've got lots of cancers all throughout my body especially in my torso area so at this stage they are growing bigger and bigger. Right now it's in my pancreas and in my liver and it will start to go into all my organs so at this stage it is very much end of life stuff for me.”

A life she doesn't take for granted. Her message to all women is simple.

“By going to the doctor putting yourself first, thinking that you're worth it, so many people rely on you in the whānau so do it for them and do it for yourself and your future generations.”

According to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, Māori women are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, while 65% of Māori women are likely to die from it. One Māori is diagnosed with breast cancer every day.

“I am absolutely petrified, you know behind this smile it's quite hard to think about, to not know when your time is going to come most of all what that time will actually look like. I might go peacefully asleep but I think for me it's the unknown, not knowing how I will pass if I will be in pain and most of all I think it's got to be said dying with dignity, not having to have people change you or just to have your own sense of dignity.”

Moana is a part of the Sweet Louise charity whose mission is to improve the quality of life for New Zealanders living with incurable breast cancer. She hopes by sharing her story it will remind women to have regular health checks.