Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman reveals multiple sclerosis diagnosis

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman says she has multiple sclerosis (MS).

In an exclusive interview with The Project's Kanoa Lloyd, the Green MP says she first learned about her diagnosis two years ago after she started losing eyesight in one eye.

She is now ready to go public with her disease because she feels she has a responsibility to start an open and honest conversation about MS.

Ghahraman says she is currently on the "most hardcore" medication - she has to visit the hospital every six months for a five-hour infusion of medicine.

"Essentially, they shut down your immune system in order to protect your nervous system."

Multiple Sclerosis is a disorder of the central nervous system which includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.

Ghahraman says she hasn't ruled out using a walking stick or a wheelchair in the future, but currently "the disease progression is under control". 

She thought MS would be quite debilitating, but says she is lucky to have access to a "new generation of medicine" that helps those with the disease to live a life without disability as long as possible.

But sufferers have varying symptoms with fatigue being the most common. Ghahraman says it's different to ordinary tiredness or stress.

The main reason she kept quiet about her illness was because she wanted to live with it and process it herself first.

But she also feared people would see her as less able if she came out about her illness.

"Then I realised this isn't about me. The more we talk about these things the more we will learn."

Ghahraman says living with MS has made her realise the difficulties people with disabilities face.

"The world's built for people with full ability.

"It's not that people with MS can't do certain jobs, it's that we haven't made enough of an effort to make that possible."

She says while New Zealand has great healthcare, there were a lot more resources that needed to be put into the system.

"We know that, I think, but to live it is different."

While waiting for a diagnosis, Ghahraman says she faced a "huge waitlist" for her MRI scan.

She says her fellow Green Party MPs were among the first people to know about her diagnosis, and they took it upon themselves to read-up on MS.

"[They] gave me the space to lead on how I wanted to be treated."

But knowing that she could lean on her colleagues for support was the most important thing, she said. 

Ghahraman became a Green Party MP in 2017.

She first arrived in New Zealand aged nine as a refugee from Iran, and went on to earn a Master's degree at Oxford University in International Human Rights Law.

She was a human rights and constitutional lawyer for 12 years before entering politics, having worked in Africa, The Hague and Cambodia.

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