One of New Zealand's youngest asbestos cancer sufferers, Deanna Trevarthen, died in Auckland on Monday, surrounded by family and in the arms of her long-term partner, Greg Robertson.

She was 45.

Deanna, like Greg a one-time employee of the Northland Age, fought her incurable disease for a year longer than doctors had expected, Greg telling the NZ Herald that his soul mate and best friend had but passed away in peace and without pain.

"Dee faced death as she lived life; smiling and with absolute determination," he said.


"She never allowed this incurable disease to take her dignity, and it's a testament to her qualities that in the last days of her life she was more concerned about me than herself.

She never gave in, and it was only her body that stopped her fight."

Cancer specialists treating Deanna believe she was exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres as a 10-year-old through her electrician father's work, but she was not entitled to ACC cover because she had not been employed in an asbestos risk industry.

The couple took the dispute to court, but lost.

Mr Robertson said there was no doubt that Deanna had accidentally inhaled the asbestos fibres, and believed that linking compensation to employment was unfair and outdated.

It had also taken ACC too long to review evidence when dealing with a fast-moving disease like cancer.

The couple had called on family (Mr Robertson is the son of Bev, who lives at Hihi, and the late Les Robertson, one-time principal at Taipa Area School), fundraised and borrowed to self-fund treatment with Keytruda.

That had cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said, but had given Deanna almost a year longer than expected.


Large tumours on her back had almost disappeared and a "tricky" tumour on her lung improved enough for radiation treatment.

The cancer returned two months ago.

And despite his grief, Mr Robertson said he would continue fighting on Deanna's behalf and for future asbestos cancer sufferers.