A Wānaka mum thought “too healthy” to have cancer says she believes natural treatments in Mexico will help her beat the disease, despite vomiting blood just before returning home.
After delays by doctors who considered Kate Callaghan too low-risk to have cancer, the holistic nutritionist, personal trainer and lifestyle coach discovered the lump in her breast was cancerous, and the disease had spread to her lymph nodes and liver.
The health-conscious 35-year-old mother-of-two has returned from three weeks of natural treatment in Mexico after doctors in New Zealand said they would only recommend palliative care, given how advanced her cancer was. Treatment such as a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation would not be appropriate, they said.
Callaghan told Stuff ultrasounds before and after treatments at the Mexican centre showed her cancer tumours had become smaller.
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However, the trip to Mexico took a frightening turn. Callaghan had to cancel a planned two-week holiday in Mexico after the treatment because she became unwell, vomiting about half a litre of blood the morning before her flight home.
Despite that, she decided to continue with her plans to fly home because “I didn’t want to be stuck in a Mexican hospital”.
After a 17-hour flight and a 10-hour stopover in Los Angeles, Callaghan arrived in Auckland and headed straight to hospital for a blood transfusion.
She remained in hospital for nearly a week of treatment and tests, which showed the cause of the bleeding was a clot in her liver, likely to be caused by the cancer.
“They weren’t sure if it was a clot or if it was one of the liver metastasis pressing one of the vein,” she said.
“They did an ultrasound of the left lobe where the vein was blocked and they said they couldn’t see any sign of a tumour or metastasis on that left lobe, which is pretty amazing because before I left, a scan showed that the whole left lobe of my liver was covered [in metastasis].”
In Mexico, Callaghan had an intensive three-weeks of therapies, such as intravenous infusions of vitamin C, vitamin B17, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is an extract of green tea and resveratrol, a compound found in red wine.
She also took supplements, rested, exercised, had emotional counselling, saunas and hyperthermia – raising her temperature to fever state in an effort to kill cancer cells.
“Physically, mentally and emotionally I’ve been given a lot of tools. It’s not something I’m necessarily going to fix in a month, it’ll be a bit of a journey, but we’ve got to always stay optimistic,” she said.
“I’m feeling good about it, I’ve made peace with it. I’ve got really good support.”
Now she’s home, she planned to start a round of chemotherapy as well, she said.
Cancer Society medical director Dr Chris Jackson said many patients used alternative and complementary therapies alongside more conventional and evidence based therapies, with many finding a mix of treatments very helpful for them.
However, there were reputable as well as predatory overseas treatment facilities, he said.
“There are risks that vulnerable patients can be exploited by unscrupulous practitioners. In some cases proposing non-evidence based but positive sounding treatments and assuring them that these have worked, even if they have not,” he said.
“We also know that some people seek, and receive high quality treatments or new research therapies at overseas facilities that offer them benefits.”
The Cancer Society encouraged people affected by cancer to carefully discuss their treatment plans, including those they pursue online or overseas, with their oncologist so the risks, benefits and alternatives could be carefully weighed individually, he said.