Statement from Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition
Wiki Mulholland should be anticipating her forty-fourth birthday tomorrow. A day that was always a family celebration with her treasured and tight knit whānau, she might have pulled her husband, Dr Malcolm Mulholland, away from his tireless work as Chair of Patient Voice Aotearoa to reflect on the year that was, have friends and whānau around as planned or perhaps sing along to one of her favourite songs, Gypsy.
In Gypsy, Fleetwood Mac sang “She is dancing away from you now. She was just a wish……And her memory is all that is left for you now.”
Instead of preparing for her birthday celebrations, Wiki will be attending a tangihanga today – her own. The cancer that led Wiki to become a passionate and inspirational advocate for all kiwis desperate for access to better treatments, robbed her of life this week.
It was this disease that caused her to reflect sadly in a Government Select Committee on ‘getting her angel wings’ due to New Zealand’s atrocious and arbitrary approach to acquiring modern medicines. The women of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) and Metavivors NZ (a peer support group for kiwis with advanced breast cancer) who have fought alongside Wiki for longer, healthier lives are devastated.
BCAC Chair Libby Burgess comments “It’s heartbreaking to lose Wiki to this awful disease. She contributed so much to her community, to her family and then to the movement to get modern medicines funded for all New Zealanders. Malcolm has lost his soulmate and we have lost a courageous, much loved and respected leader in the fight for better cancer care”.
Fellow Metavivors Terre Nicholson and Tracy Barr-Smith were with Wiki on the steps of Parliament as they presented the petition to fund two breast cancer medicines. They all stood before the Health Select Committee to tell their stories of struggling to self-fund the treatments they so desperately needed and to make the case for all those with similar needs. Terre and the Metavivors commented “A massive totara has fallen. It’s so hard to hear this news. Wiki was a wise, caring and gentle force. She spoke her truth to power eloquently and with a directness that was from her soul”. Tracy, who will light Metavivor candles to honour Wiki says “I’m just devastated this wahine toa has passed. She was such a wonderful warm, generous and loving person and a brave warrior in the fight for the medicines we need and deserve”.
Wiki inspired a movement to challenge the brutal and selective rationing system in Aotearoa that particularly discriminates against vulnerable populations, including Māori. A system that has left us trailing behind almost all like countries in the world in terms of availability of treatments and health outcomes. An approach that perplexes our international colleagues and is starved of compassion and humanity.
Wiki was tenacious. She refused to define herself by her illness, but she dedicated herself to trying to ensure that others could have a different journey from the one she found herself navigating with such fortitude and dignity.
Wiki was the inspiration behind the formation of Patient Voice Aotearoa and the reason why her beloved husband, Dr Mulholland, has dedicated thousands of precious hours to take on the Wellington establishment and campaign for the health outcomes that the most vulnerable members of society deserve.
Wiki and Malcolm Mulholland are a big part of the reason that, if officials listen to patients and take action to improve things, future generations will have more options and a lot more hope. Wiki has her angel wings now. Fly high beautiful woman. Moe mai ra, wahine toa arohaina.
If you would like to support the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition in our ongoing efforts to ensure all New Zealanders with breast cancer receive timely effective treatments, please visit our website at www.breastcancer.org.nz to donate. This will be Wiki’s ongoing legacy.
29 November 2021