A journey of hope

Kate Callaghan received news that no young mum should receive.

Kate Callahan is a much-loved mum of two who was recently hit with the devastating news that she has stage four metastasized breast cancer. Receiving that news is like smashing headfirst into an invisible ice wall at 200kmph. The shock, emotional pain and mental trauma is indescribable. 

As Kate starts to describe the emotions that are threatening to overwhelm, her voice starts to crack.

When she talks about how to tell her kids, she goes silent. “How did you tell your kids?” she asks me. “I told them mummy has sick boobies… but we never used the C word because… it was just…” 


There are no words. It cannot be articulated. I have walked part of the same path as Callaghan and it’s not one I want to revisit. Both of us have clenched throats as we steer the conversation away. 

Hope is the focus; treatment is the discussion and optimism is what speak out —  for what the mouth speaks, has power. 

Callaghan is a holistic nutritionist, personal trainer, lifestyle coach and author specialising in hormone healing and fertility — in short, the poster child for health, and someone who definitely shouldn’t have cancer. 

Her professional mission is “to inspire and empower women to overcome hormonal havoc through real food, rejuvenating movement, loving thoughts, and kind actions.”

Her values are to “Be honest and transparent. Live with integrity. Respect for myself and others. Show compassion and empathy. Be authentic in my actions. Remain dedicated to helping others.”

How does this happen to a beautiful young mum, with two gorgeous little kids?

“They wouldn’t refer me,” she says. “Why?”

“Why would they say I’m not a candidate for cancer and just wait to see if the lump got worse? It would have been so easy. Just petrol money to Dunedin but I was told that I was low risk and not to worry. It would have been $100 of petrol…. I still can’t believe they didn’t refer me through earlier.” 

When Callaghan first found out she had cancer, it was shocking enough but she mentally got herself into a place to have a mastectomy, then chemo and radiation and to fight it. “But when the CT scan came back and they saw it was in my liver, they said there was only palliative care available... Hooked up to machines to keep me alive was how I saw it.”

The abrupt prognosis was hard to hear but second opinions are worth their weight in gold. Callaghan has now made contact with Auckland specialist, Adam Bartlett who has said he's happy to take a look at Callaghan's case. "I have heard lots of great feedback about him, and THAT has given me hope," said Callaghan. Getting a second opinion can offer a real mind-shift. As a liver specialist, Bartlett is known for tackling tough cases and  never giving up on patients, even when the public system surgeons have delivered hard news.

Thankfully, the givealittle campaign that was launched last Friday has smashed its goal and will provide funds not only for three weeks of alternative treatment in Mexico, but also other surgical options should those prove to be feasible after a second opinion with Dr Bartlett is sought. By Tuesday 4pm, $184,000 has been raised. By Wednesday 3pm it was $213,571… the fund continues to grow and with it, grows hope. 

To donate, go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/lets-save-kates-life 

Callaghan plans to leave Wānaka for Cancun’s Hope4Cancer centre on December 7 where she will undergo alternative therapies that have had significant success for many patients. 

The Wānaka Sun will be following her journey over coming weeks, months... and years. Our next article will look at why Kate wasn’t referred and why women under 45 are routinely ignored when it comes to breast cancer. 


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