Kiwi woman forced to move to Australia for life-saving cancer treatment not available in Aotearoa

It's easy to find a lot of cool Kiwis in Australia - Ana Ratapu is one of them. 

A young mum of two, tattoos on her arm, pounamu around her neck and living a short walk away from the beach. 

That's where Paddy Gower Has Issues went with her after picking up her children from their new schools. 

Young Nikau says he's 18 but is 8.

And Amani is a 14-year-old high school student. That's a tough age to cross the Tasman and start a new school. 

But Ratapu didn't move her family there by choice. She moved to Australia to save her life. 

She had watched two close family members die from Melanoma, then watched her dad fight the disease. 

She shouldn't have had to. 

That's why when she was diagnosed in 2020, Ratapu had to fight to save her own life. 

It shouldn't be that way. 

Ana Ratapu moved to Australia to save her life.
Ana Ratapu moved to Australia to save her life. Photo credit: Paddy Gower Has Issues

Doctors first picked up the cancer when she was living in Perth. 

It was a success story - they cut it out and it went away. 

The Australian doctors wanted her to get regular scans to make sure it didn't come back. 

But when she moved home to New Zealand, all Kiwi doctors could offer were skin checks. 

There should have been more surveillance offered.  

Ratapu's natural instinct and family history kicked in. She paid hundreds of dollars and drove hours for private scans. 

Her cancer had returned and spread; three tumours on her lungs and lymph nodes. 

Ratapu didn't feel sick or look sick. If she hadn't fought for those scans, those skin checks never would have found it. 

It gets worse. 

The treatment she was offered didn't bring a lot of confidence; four rounds of the miracle drug Keytruda. If it didn't work, that was it. 

Ratapu had to fight for a better option - she shouldn't have had to. 

She found clinical trials in Sydney and, within days, she was saying a tearful goodbye to her family in New Zealand and on a plane to Australia. 

They offered her medicine and options - and it's working. 

Her tumours have gone away. 

Kiwi woman forced to move to Australia for life-saving cancer treatment not available in Aotearoa

She said she has faith in Australia's health system. 

If her treatment stopped working, she has an abundance of other options. 

That faith, she said, she didn't have in New Zealand.

New Zealand's Cancer Control Agency Te Aho o Te Kahu acknowledged care for this disease could be difficult to navigate in Aotearoa.

Chief executive Rami Rahal said it had focused on a range of areas since it was established in 2019, including undertaking analysis to compare the difference in accessing effective cancer medicines between New Zealand and Australia, as well as working with Te Whatu Ora to identify pressures and delays and ensure Aotearoa had the appropriate cancer workforce capacity. 

"All of these efforts will in time contribute to improving access and reducing avoidable wait times." 

Stream Paddy Gower Has Issues in full on ThreeNow.

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