Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Courageous Rotorua cop's will to live

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Rotorua police officer Detective Steve Allpress has just found out he’s dying of cancer. But he’s beyond optimistic. He talks to head of news Kelly Makiha about why he’s looking forward to going back to work.

COURAGEOUS: Detective Steve Allpress is fighting terminal brain tumours, but refuses to give up hope. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
COURAGEOUS: Detective Steve Allpress is fighting terminal brain tumours, but refuses to give up hope. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Steve Allpress is attacking his brain tumours like a police file.

He's told the details and investigates it. He prosecutes the bad guy, who then goes to jail and the victims get a good result.

"The victims are going to get a good result. Do you follow what I mean? I'm going to have lots more years with my partner and kids."

Mr Allpress, 54, is fighting two grade 4 aggressive brain tumours. One is embedded so deeply in the centre of his brain it's inoperable, 90 per cent of the other one has been removed in surgery and he's undergoing chemotherapy and radiation to "mop up" the rest.

Every day the aggressive cancer is attacking Mr Allpress. It's only been six weeks since he found out and already his brain isn't functioning like it used to, his speech is slurred, he can't spell like he did before and his train of thought gets muddled.

But it's all temporary if you ask him.

Once his treatment at Waikato Hospital kicks in, he's convinced it will attack the bad bugger deep in the brain and reduce it to an extent he can live out some more years.

"It's grade 4 (the worst grade). I'm not going to ask the doctors any more than that, like how long I've got."

His "beautiful partner" as he describes her, Rotorua St John ambulance officer Kylie Parker, has taken a year's leave without pay to look after him.

"But she will be able to go back to the job when I get well."

Mr Allpress gets pretty tired but during the past two weeks of treatment he still tries to get outside for walks.

"It actually helps me mentally deal with the chemotherapy and radiation. I spent a lot of time mountain biking in the forest so going outside is like my escape."

The popular detective has spent the past two months working in Greymouth on child abuse cases. It was a way of sussing out the South Island in preparation for a possible move back to the south - where he was born - as one of his children was thinking of attending Otago University.

While in Greymouth he kept up his mountain biking but for some reason he kept falling off. He also noticed when doing paperwork his thought processes were out and he couldn't string words together.

"That's how I knew something was wrong. I couldn't connect a basic sentence."

Everyone suspected he had burnt out on the job or had a mild stroke. He knew it couldn't be burn out because although the child abuse cases he was working on were harrowing, it wasn't anything worse than what he'd dealt with in CIB in Rotorua.

He had an MRI and on April 30 he was told the news.

"I burst into tears. I was blind sided. I certainly didn't think I had a brain tumour."

The news was gut wrenching for his family. His children Tegan, 17, and Ruben, 15, had just lost a cousin to a brain tumour.

Ruben has swung into action and has set up a Givealittle page for their family. Mr Allpress' voice breaks up when he talks about it.

"I was so proud of him for doing that. It's a bit of a rollercoaster emotionally."

Mr Allpress is not one to ask for handouts but he's also realistic about how his illness is going to affect his family financially without his partner working.

Miss Parker's mother has resigned from her job in Napier and has moved to Rotorua to look after her children who live with her and Mr Allpress, Joshua, 15, and Alex, 13.

Mr Allpress joined the police in July 2000, following stints in the army, becoming a plumber and working as a building inspector for the Rotorua District Council.

With the police, he worked in general duties until February 2009 when he joined CIB. He has been a member of a range of CIB groups such as the Child Protection Team, General Crime Squad, Adult Sexual Assault Team and more recently in a Crime Control Unit (Drug Squad).

He was a member of the Rotorua AOS squad from October 2002 until February 2009.

This newspaper knows only too well Mr Allpress doesn't like the attention of having a Givealittle page in his name.

In 2007 while on a callout with the AOS squad in Taupo, he was injured when a stun grenade exploded for some reason in his hand, causing the loss of his ring finger on his left hand.

This reporter tried for two years to get him to tell his story, and he eventually did so in 2009 - but even then he refused to be photographed.

He said at the time his children were upset when the pager went off that Saturday morning.

'My daughter starting crying and said 'don't go, you might get hurt daddy'."

He and other Armed Offenders Squad members were sent inside a house where it was suspected an armed man was.

Officers use stun grenades or distraction devices - a small object attached to their pockets ready for use - as a tactic to create a diversion while clearing a scene.

"As I pulled it out of my pouch, it went bang. I looked down at my hand and knew it was bad," Mr Allpress said in 2009.

"The pain was just surging through my body. I was kicking and lashing with pain. On a scale of one to 10, the pain was 10 plus," he was quoted as saying.

But with the help of his work mates and Miss Parker, he learnt to use his hand again and he went back to the squad.

Now that support was coming back in droves.

Our fridge is full of food and all my police mates are coming around to mow the lawns and we have an abundance of firewood.
Detective Steve Allpress

Police friends from the South Island and former mates from the army, which he served in in the 1970s, have contacted him offering to help. Some are even preparing to fly to Rotorua soon for a visit.

Miss Parker said all the messages of support from friends and family had been incredible while they spent their weeks at Waikato Hospital.

"We are on our devices reading them all the time and helps us stay strong. It's so obvious that he is so loved ... for instance the guys in the army are ringing all the time and they haven't seen him in years."

The plan for the next few weeks is another four weeks of radiation and chemotherapy Monday to Friday, a month recovering in Rotorua before six months of "double chemotherapy" starts.

Meanwhile, Mr Allpress said he couldn't thank everyone enough for their support and donations.

"The police family are awesome and special mention to Potty (Sergeant Phil Wilkinson) who has been co-ordinating things for me."

He said the Rotorua police had been given a raw deal with cancer diagnoses - with nine members fighting the disease in the past five years. None of those have died.

He said he was particularly drawing inspiration from former colleague Detective Inspector Garth Bryan, now in Wellington, who was told a few years ago he didn't have long to live.

When Mr Allpress talks about his work with Rotorua police, there's a spark that comes flying back into his voice.

"I can't wait to get back to work. I really miss all my work mates."

-To donate go to www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/steveallpress.

- Northern Advocate

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