Ipswich mum with cancer 'overwhelmed' as holiday fundraiser reaches goal

Craig and Simone are struggling with the cancer diagnosis

Craig and Simone on their wedding day - Credit: Craig Callaghan

Over £5,000 has been raised for an Ipswich mum-of-five who received a devastating cancer diagnosis just before her 30th birthday. 

Simone Callaghan has thanked the more than 270 people who donated to a fund which means her family can take a holiday to America, with a plan to make memories. 

In the space of a few months, Mrs Callaghan has had to come to terms with the fact that her stage four bowel cancer, which has spread to her liver and kidneys, may be terminal. 

But the support shown has been "overwhelming" - especially after her initial reaction to her husband's GoFundMe page was scepticism. 

"To be honest, at the beginning I was like 'well, why? No one's going to do anything, it's pointless'. 

"I've always been someone who never really had any help or support from anyone. 

"But I'm so grateful to have had so much here, now. 

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"It's not just been a case of people donating money, but people have donated gifts for a little tombola page I've set up and even just general kindness.  

"We went to purchase a phone off Facebook for my son and the couple selling it had seen the article in the paper and when my husband went to the door they said they were heartbroken by our story and didn't want any money from us. They'd donated to the fund and then gave us the phone. 

"It's just those little gestures. That was heartfelt. People have really cared about me."

Simone Callaghan at hospital for treatment for her cancer

Simone Callaghan was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer when she was 29 - Credit: Craig Callaghan

As well as the £5,243 raised on GoFundMe, a donation of £1,500 was sent directly to Mrs Callaghan from Winner Winner Competitions, which organises social media raffles. 

The cost of the holiday has been covered by the money raised so far, with anything additional allowing for "more for making memories". 

Plans are in place for the family, who will be travelling to Florida during the Easter break. 

Mrs Callaghan said: "I've said to my husband for years that when the kids grow up let's get a Winnebago and travel in America.  

"Realistically, I know that's never going to happen now, but I'm looking forward to getting away and forgetting about it for a while. 

"Here, because my story went crazy, everybody knows. People who see me in Florida won't know that I'm ill.

"And I want to go before I get too unwell because I've been quite poorly. 

"I've not had chemo for six weeks because I've had septicaemia, I've had Covid, I've had chest infections. Every time I've gone to have treatment, I've had an infection that prevents me from having it. 

"And we know the cancer is still growing quite dramatically, especially in my liver.  

"Scans that are eight weeks apart are drastically different, so we really need to crack on. 

"The hope is we can have at least four more sessions before the trip, but doctors are aware and have agreed I can go."

Craig and Simone Callaghan, husband and wife, are trying to cope with her cancer diagnosis

Craig and Simone Callaghan have been married since the summer of 2020 - Credit: Craig Callaghan

Friends have praised the mum-of-five for being so positive despite the circumstances, but she says her mindset is just taking "every day as it goes" because she knows each one could be her last. 

She added: "It's frustrating, keeping being ill and in pain and getting more medication to try and stop the pain, but I've got children and the last thing I want for them is to think 'mummy really struggled'. 

"I need them to see the happy side of me because those are the memories I want them to have."

If Mrs Callaghan's story does anything, she says, she hopes it encourages people who feel there's something wrong with their health to push for a diagnosis. 

She believes doctors thought she was too young to have bowel cancer, so despite her symptoms she is concerned they were late to test. 

"Cancer doesn't discriminate, so why should we be labelled by our ages about what tests we should get?  

"If I'd got my tests early enough, I might not be in this situation.

"Eight weeks earlier could have saved me, look at how much my scans are changing in eight weeks now.

"I've not come across any stories that are exactly the same as mine, but people have said because of my story they're going to go and get checked out.

"If I do go, then I want to go feeling I've saved others, because they kept pushing their doctors for a diagnosis."