Mum of two, Kate Callaghan, who was diagnosed with stage four metastasised cancer at the end of last year has returned to Wānaka after three weeks in Mexico undergoing alternative therapies at Hope4Cancer in Cancun.
The 35-year-old suffered a horror trip home which included vomiting half a litre of blood prior to departure. But, not wanting to be stuck in a Mexican hospital and desperate to be reunited with her two children she opted to white knuckle it home to New Zealand.
Upon arrival she was immediately hospitalised at Auckland Hospital, then transferred to Dunedin meaning she had to wait an extra week before being able to hug her children.
But, it was all worth it.
“I’ve just come back from the oncologist in Dunedin and she did a physical assessment on me and she said the tumour was definitely smaller and softer,” said Kate on Tuesday. “It was really good to get that validation because she has nothing to do with the clinic over there and in fact she was telling me not to go.”
Callaghan was fortunate to have a rota of support whilst in Mexico with her mum accompanying her over for the first week, then her doctor from Timaru, Dr Tracy Chandler, flying to Mexico to be with her for the second week; then her husband joining her for her final week.
“[Dr Chandler] is extraordinary. I asked her if she wanted to come because she’s really supporting me here and I wanted her to see what they were doing over there so we can carry on with those things back home,” said Callaghan.
The treatments ran eight hours a day, six days a week and some felt much nicer than others.
“There were lots of infusions including Vitamin C, B17, curcumin, and resveratrol,” said Callaghan. There were also heat treatments with her least favourite therapy nicknamed, ‘the pizza oven’ as her body was placed in a dome with just her head sticking out. Her body was then super heated to a fever level in an attempt to kill off the cancer cells. “It was horrible!” said Kate. “The treatments were all non toxic but they were definitely not easy.”
Whilst being heated to a fever in a pizza oven was her least favourite therapy, Callaghan said vitamin C was the best. “Even though I don’t like needles and I had hoped I would get over my needle phobia — I had at least 25 needles while I was over there — vitamin c made me feel very energised.”
“I was on 25 grams per infusion. Tracey had done some testing on me here and there is a gene pathway that I have that means I can’t metabolise high doses of vitamin c. So while we initially wanted to go higher we stuck at 25 grams.”
The Nutrition Foundation of NZ recommends 45mgs per day, so 25gms is 555 percent above the recommended daily intake.
With the help of Dr Chandler who runs clinics in Wānaka, Callaghan hopes to carry on many of the treatments on a DIY basis from here. “I can do infrared sauna, hyperbaric oxygen treatments, juicing, coffee enemas, and vitamin c infusions but I need to talk to Wānaka medical about that. I know people who do them at home but there’s no way I am going to do my own IV line at home.”
Now at home in Hāwea, Callaghan is full time with kids and “getting myself better.”
Chemo is due to start in approximately three weeks and she is looking at alternative therapies to support the chemo and support her body whilst going through the treatment. She also plans to make an appointment with Dr Adam Bartlett, a liver specialist shortly.
“There are discrepancies in the reading of my liver’s scans as to whether it is even covered in metastases,” said Callaghan.
That ambiguity is very unsettling. “That’s the difference between having liver surgery or not. Right now the tumour in my breast isn’t causing the issues, it’s my liver. So if we could operate on my liver and if that is even an option then that could go a long way.”
For now, Callaghan is holding her family tight and holding onto hope. She would like to thank all the Wānaka community for their support to her and her family over this time.