Rotorua's Kelly Shrimpton was instantly on edge when a doctor told her mother her spleen was enlarged.

She had heard the words before.

Shrimpton is sharing her story and has shaved her hair to help fundraise for a cure to the disease responsible for her heart breaking more than once.

In 2006 she lost her partner Nick Bolton to blood cancer. One of his initial symptoms was an enlarged spleen.


In 2016 Shrimpton had taken her mother Wendy Hawke to the hospital as she was suffering from back pain.

"After initial tests we were told she [Mum] had an enlarged spleen and I was immediately on edge. By 2pm that day we found out she had blood cancer.

"It was hard. I really did have to keep telling myself that it wasn't the same story and wouldn't necessarily have the same ending – although ultimately it did."

In 2013 Shrimpton rode 31km for 31 days, a cycle journey to raise funds for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand in memory of her partner.

This year she joins thousands of other freshly-shaven heads as Kiwis go bald for the annual Shave for a Cure event held between March 18 and 24.

Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand chief executive Peter Fergusson said Shave for a Cure was a great way to show support for blood cancer patients, many of whom lost their hair from chemotherapy.

"Last year almost 2000 Kiwis got involved in Shave for a Cure. The emphasis is on having fun, and I urge people to give it a go," Fergusson said.

Ministry of Health data estimates one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer every four hours in New Zealand.


The symptoms of blood cancer can be non-specific so the disease can initially be mistaken for a myriad of other illnesses. A survey just released with responses from 437 New Zealand blood cancer patients revealed that 87 per cent did not know their symptoms were related to blood cancer.

As she worked through her grief, Shrimpton said she drew strength from observing the immense beauty nature has to offer.

"It's the simple things like the sun shining through the trees or the light sparkling on the water."

Her eye for detail has helped her channel grief into painting, and her abstract art represents a mix of optimism and hope.

"Shave for a Cure allows me to give hope and support to others, it means that something positive has come out of all this. And my hair feels lovely and light and I don't have to use nearly as much shampoo," she laughed.

"I've been told I suit the short look which is definitely more luck than anything else. It could have gone the other way."