One year ago today, Kate Callaghan died. The Wānaka nutritionist and mother-of-two was only 36-years-old and had been deemed "too young and too healthy" to have breast cancer.
On the first anniversary of her daughter's death, her mother, Robyn Edleston, wants to remind everyone that, as her daughter has proven, there is no such thing as too healthy or too young to get cancer - and she wants to ensure no young woman gets dismissed when she finds a lump.
Robyn has spent the last year navigate the delicate balance between mourning her daughter's death and celebrating Kate's life.
Today, on the anniversary of her death, Wānaka-based Dr Jin Ong, a close family friend, released a podcast interview with Robyn, discussing Kate's fight against cancer and what the family sees as her legacy.
Kate Callaghan was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2019 and died seven months later, in June 2020. In those months, she tried numerous treatments, including chemotherapy and a treatment and "Hope4Cancer" in Mexico, after raising nearly a quarter of a million dollars in donations to get her there.
Her official diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer came on November 7, months after Kate had gone to the doctor to get a lump checked in June.
She said at the time she was deemed too low risk to have cancer, as she was young, healthy and was breastfeeding. After months of insistence, the dreaded diagnosis confirmed the worst - and so began the biggest fight of Kate's life.
In the conversation, Robyn revealed that Kate died of liver complications brought on by the cancer but says that scans before her death showed the tumour was "almost imperceptible".
Her mum believes this shows Kate was on the right path - but simply ran out of time.
"She had achieved what she set out to do," her mum said in Jin Ong's podcast, "The Art Of Listening To Your Body".
Robyn wants people who followed Kate's journey to know she never gave up - and she hopes she continues to inspire them to do the same.
"Don't give up. If you've been following Kate's journey and she's kept you positive, keep going," she said.
A holistic nutritionist, Kate had nearly 28,000 followers on Instagram and used the social network to detail her journey as she fought against the cancer. Through it all, she continued to inspire others, both those close to her and strangers she never got to meet.
Her mum admired the positive attitude Kate maintained throughout it all - "such was her positivity, you'd forget she had cancer" - and says she has used it as inspiration for herself now, having to face life without her daughter.
"I am hoping that now every time a young woman, no matter what their age, that they will go to the doctor and the doctor will say 'let's get it tested'," her mum told Jin Ong in her podcast.
"If we think it's abnormal, then it should be treated as such," she added, saying breast cancer screening needs to be "more accessible" to all women, "no matter their age or lifestyle".
Kate initially visited the doctor when she found a lump in her breast but her concerns were reportedly dismissed as she was deemed too young and too healthy to have breast cancer.
In reality, the young mum was fighting stage 4 breast cancer. A couple of months after her first appointment, she returned to the doctor for a second opinion. This time, she got a referral which reportedly ended up getting lost.
In an interview at the time, Kate described how she had to chase her referral appointment after not hearing back from anyone for weeks.
She called Dunedin Hospital directly, who told her they never received the referral.
"I expected a referral - you trust your doctors to a certain degree ... I probably should have pushed harder in hind-sight," Kate said in 2019.
"I think they have acknowledged that they should have acted sooner as well. I have been angry ... but I need to let go of that now because it's not helping where I am."
Because she was a young, fit woman who was still breastfeeding, she didn't tick any of the conventional boxes of breast cancer risk.
Her mum wants her daughter's fight to be a reminder that women's concerns need to be taken seriously, regardless of whether or not they tick any of those boxes.
In a matter of weeks, Kate's breast cancer spread to her liver and she was basically told there was nothing anyone could do. She refused to believe it and fought right until the end.
While it is not known whether or not the time between the first appointment and her confirmed diagnosis made a difference, her mum believes the system needs to change so that women do not need to do so much advocacy for themselves, when in positions similar to her daughter's.
"She just doesn't want anyone else to be in the same situation as her," her mother says.
One year without Kate
One year on, Kate's husband Aaron is raising the couple's two children, Ed and Olivia, in Lake Hāwea with the help and support of family and friends in the community.
Kate's mum, who lives in Sydney, has recently visited New Zealand to celebrate Olivia's sixth birthday.
The family is preparing a memorial "of sorts" for later in the year, but there are still many details to iron out.
In the meantime, they take strength from the woman Kate was, in her 36 years, and the inspiration she was to them until the very last day.
"She lost the war but she won the biggest battle. She never gave up," her mum, who is working with Dr Jin Ong to help deal with her grief, says.
"I have my moments. I was told milestones will impact on you. Christmas Day wasn't so bad but the next day I went down and cried and cried and cried.
"I took two weeks off work after Christmas and found them very difficult. Every day I thought about Kate, every day I cried," the grieving mum recalls.
"I've become very conscious of butterflies. I found one in Kate's room recently. It was really spooky. I thought 'what are you doing in here?'. Kate's room is closed all the time.
"Kate's brother, my son, sent me a very moving text message on Mother's Day and I cried. It ended up being a good day. It didn't hit me like Christmas did," she adds.
Kate Callaghan's mum says her "two beautiful children" are her biggest legacy.
"They will be her forever. I may have lost Kate but I have those beautiful children," the proud grandmother says in the podcast, unable to hold back the tears. "They are her mother."
According to her mum, the numerous women Kate inspired and helped through her work as a holistic nutritionist can also be included in that legacy.
Since Kate's death, Robyn has been trying to live by Kate's words. "Stop worrying about what other people think. Do your thing, be yourself," her daughter would tell her.
"That's what I want to do."
Ong, who's been helping Robyn through the grieving process using emotional release techniques, says Robyn has in Kate's death a catalyst to "just go and live her life". She praises the grieving mum for taking the steps to process her daughter's death as soon as she did.
"I always encourage people to process things as soon as possible," Ong said.
She says Robyn's path is an example of what Kate wanted life to be like.
"Life is too short. Go do your thing," she'd say.
And, to her very last breath, she lived by her words.