Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has opened up about her multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis, saying she feels she has a "responsibility" to start an honest conversation about the autoimmune disease.
In a tweet, Ghahraman said today was the first time she had spoken publicly about life with MS.
"I've learned so much about community, equality and access to care.
Mostly, it showed me how strong and capable the MS and broader disability community really are – and the importance of our right to representation."
Speaking to The Project's Kanoa Lloyd this evening, Ghahraman said she first learned about her diagnosis two years ago after she began to lose sight in one eye.
She was on "hardcore medication" and had to visit a hospital every six months.
"Essentially, they shut down your immune system in order to protect your nervous system," she told The Project.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system that affects movement, sensation and body functions: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment.
Women and people of European descent are more susceptible, and symptoms usually appear for the first time between the ages of 20 and 40 years.
Ghahraman told The Project while she could need a walking stick or a wheelchair in the future, the "new generation of medicine" helped those with the disease live a life without disability as long as possible.
Despite having the diagnosis for two years, she kept quiet because she wanted to live with MS and process it herself first, and also feared people would see her as less able.
"Then I realised this isn't about me," she told The Project.
"The more we talk about these things the more we will learn."
"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."
The process also highlighted to her the need to put more resources into the healthcare system.
Her fellow Green MPs took it upon themselves to learn about MS upon hearing her diagnosis, and knowing she could lean on her colleagues for support was the most important thing, she told The Project.
Ghahraman grew up in Iran, before fleeing to New Zealand with her family as a 9-year-old seeking political asylum.
Ghahraman became a Green Party MP in 2017, the first former refugee to be elected to New Zealand's Parliament.
Before politics she earned a Master's degree at Oxford University in International Human Rights Law, and was a human rights and constitutional lawyer for 12 years, having worked in Africa, The Hague and Cambodia.