'Life Can Be Fragile': MP Reveals Cancer Diagnosis In Moving Speech

A new Labor MP has delivered a moving call to Australians to check themselves for cancer, as she spoke of her ongoing fight with the disease. 

Just a week after Peta Murphy was sworn in as the newly-elected member for the suburban Melbourne seat of Dunkley, she received the unexpected news her breast cancer had returned.

"As I now know, cancer is not just indiscriminate, it's sneaky," she told the federal parliament in her maiden speech on Wednesday.

"You might say Murphy's Law strikes again," she quipped.

Labor MP Peta Murphy. Photo: Parliament of Australia

"But my mother Jan, who is a Murphy by marriage not birth and therefore able to adopt a less pessimistic personal motto, would say, 'everything happens for a reason'."

I am neither unique nor alone in the fight I am about to take on.

Murphy is a former criminal lawyer and barrister who grew up in Wagga Wagga, in NSW's Riverina region. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, just days before she was due to move to San Francisco with her husband, Rod.

"We were lucky. We had strong families and friends ... we could afford and access the best quality healthcare," she said.

"I am acutely aware that is not everyone's story, and it should be."

Instead, Murphy and her husband moved to the electorate of Dunkley, south of Melbourne, to be near his family.

She called it the "best decision we ever made".

"The second was the reminder that life can be fragile, and to make the most of it," she told the House. 

But, let's be frank: cancer sucks.

"The treatments can make you sick. Sometimes you are scared, sometimes you are angry. In my experience often you are both at the same time."

Looking ahead, Murphy was optimistic as she vowed to use her public platform to help others, with the support of the Dunkley community.

"Ladies, check your breasts. Men, stop ignoring what your body is telling you," she said.

"Fellow members of parliament -- listen to the experts who warn that the promise of universal health care is under threat."

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Murphy's experience has also fuelled her health care advocacy, as she urged her colleagues to reform and fund the system.

"Do whatever is required to ensure that Australia trains, retains and invests in the health care professionals and researchers who make our system great," she said.

The MP also used her first speech to call for a bill of rights, preservation of the environment, secure jobs in the future and for equality to be protected.

With AAP.