Mums Who Inspire

Inspiring mum-of-two: 'I was given five years to live'

As part of our Mums Who Inspire series, we sat down with mum-of-two, Gina O'Callaghan, to learn more about her inspirational story of battling cancer and the importance of making lifestyle changes. If you have a story that you would like to be featured, email mumswhoinspire[at]

Gina O'Callaghan is your regular mum and likes to take life one day at a time.

However, when we sat down with her for a chat at MagicMum, we swiftly learned there is nothing ordinary about this 43-year-old super mum. 

It's hard to believe this woman was given just five years to live three years ago, and she is here to share her story of life lessons and survival.

Growing up in Malahide, Gina took a giant leap when she moved to Hong Kong at the tender age of 21; she resided in the city for 20 years, climbing up the career ladder and raising a family with her husband, Rob. 

"It's a wonderful place to live, you're looked after, the weather is hot," she said when describing her life in the big city. "But they do have a live-to-work mentality where you could end up working seven days a week."

Following the birth of her children, Gina and Rob decided to move to a rural location, cutting down work hours and toying with the holistic idea of slowing down.

"I had to start thinking about pollution, quality of food, things that would affect the kids that I wouldn't have thought about at length before."

Sadly, however, heartbreak was on the cards as the mum-of-two lost her dad, uncle and mum all within a nine week period.

Gina's dad passed away after a fight with cancer, her uncle taking a heart-attack and Mum suffering a broken heart, following the loss of her two best friends. 

Flying 6,000 miles each way and grieving the loss of those she held dear, Gina started carrying symptoms of severe stress: haemorrhoids. 

The mum-of-two had been given a clean bill of health six months previous and was prescribed painkillers for her haemorrhoids.

Gina got on with her day-to-day living until pain woke her up at 4am one morning, while the right side of her body was sensitive.

The swift actions of the health system in Hong Kong meant she received a scan and was operated upon that very night.

What was supposed to be a 20-minute operation lasted four hours, as doctors unexpectedly removed her ovaries, endometrium and parts of the cervix. 

"The doctor came in, pulled the curtain and said 'you have cancer'. My world crashed. It was an out of body experience." she told MagicMum. "I was a healthy person."

Days later, Gina received more devastating news: "I'm sorry, we have found a second cancer."

Having her stomach opened, the remainder of her cervix was removed along with the appendix, but it was just the beginning of her journey. 

Treatment was arduous, but she never expected to be told that her situation was bleak; doctors were giving chemotherapy for palliative care purposes only.

"I needed to get well, I had two kids, I was a young woman," she maintained. 

Coming across a book her husband ordered, Gina's life took a turn for the better.

Reading The Anti-Cancer Diet, the mum 'burst out crying' when she finished it, vowing to overhaul her lifestyle and eating habits. 

"That was my lightbulb moment; any chance I got I researched, book after book, all about how to help yourself, about what you need as a person."

Gina began juicing, eating all natural whole foods, had tests completed by a naturalpathic doctor and put a supplementation plan in place for vitamins.

"I didn't suffer nausea, I would be in bed for half a day after therapy, but overall I would feel OK. I'd continue to go for a walk, run and always have my fruit and vegetables with me."

"The nurse began asking me why I felt so good while in treatment, but it was the mix of good food, positive outlook and sheer determination."

Through her fight, the mum was undertaking a course in beauty and massage therapy, completing her exams a mere three days after her last radiation treatment. 

"Radiation was the last piece of the puzzle for me, it was then I realised how powerful your mind is; I had heard how painful the treatment can be, it can burn."

"I began to cry as I was lying there, the beams burning my pelvis, until a nurse informed me it wasn't even turned on – the pain was in my mind."

From this point forward, the magic mum, stopped reaching for over-the-counter medicine as a go-to each time she felt unwell, using essential oils instead.

Gina by no means disregards doctors or medical professionals, but is strong in her belief that you can help yourself to keep well too, in both body and mind. 

The couple were given the opportunity to move home with work, and Gina relished the chance: "I couldn't pass it up, the feeling was too strong; fresh air, fresh fruit and veg, family, the opportunity to open my own spa."

Cancer never stopped this mum from fulfilling her dreams, instead she has come out fighting

"I'd love to be able to say don't be scared but you need to love yourself, respect your body," she explained. 

"You need to get to the crux of who you are, don't hide away. I went to counselling to get my journey off my chest."

Gina has a small bit of advice to offer those going through a cancer diagnosis: "There is no one cancer in the world, you need to discover this for yourself."

"It's a journey, it's telling you you have time – you choose your way."

Gina's story is a spine-tingling rendition of determination and how making the choice to care for her body has helped her to where she is today – you can find more information on her treatment here

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