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Community rallies for South Morang mum diagnosed with cancer

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Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis has worked as a journalist at the North Central Review since 2022, with a particular focus on the City of Whittlesea and stories for the Whittlesea Review. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media and Communications majoring in journalism and focuses on politics, community, and health with the occasional niche sports story finding its way in front of her.

By Pam Kiriakidis

South Morang mother Kate Steneker had her world rocked earlier this month when she received news of a breast cancer diagnosis at age 36.

The Christmas period was a waiting game for screening results that quickly escalated the lives of the whole family, especially Kate’s sister Elise Calleja who rallied to support.

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Kate Steneker with her husband Troy, and their two young daughters. ​

Just two days after Ms Steneker’s diagnosis, Ms Calleja created a GoFundMe campaign to help her sister financially over the next 12 months.  

Ms Calleja’s expectations of how much money would be raised were low, but the next day she woke up to more than $36,000 of donations from family and friends who wanted the best for her sister.

Ms Calleja said she was still ‘mind blown’ over the support for her best friend.

“[This is] what happens when people come together – big things happen,” she said.

“[Kate is] so overwhelmed and thankful by everyone’s generosity, and I don’t think she anticipated that she would get this reaction.

“People we haven’t spoken or seen for a really long time … I suppose people just relate to the story and want to help.”

Ms Steneker underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, which Ms Calleja said was the first step for Kate and her family. 

“I think she’s sinking everything in, there’s going to be a long kind of 12 months ahead with her treatment plan, and there’s a lot of unknowns where else it can potentially be in the body … that’s just where we’re at,” she said.

“After a surgery she will be living with my parents for a little while just to support her that way, and with [her] girls being so young and all.”

Growing up in Epping and nearby suburbs, Ms Calleja and her sister have always taken care of each other, sharing treasured moments and travelling to Echuca on family holidays.

Ms Calleja said she was honoured to have her best friend and sister as part of her wedding.

“I got married and I had one bridesmaid and it was just her, we had the most beautiful day and I’m so happy that she got to be my number one,” she said.

Despite the unknown over the next 12 months, Ms Calleja said Ms Steneker was ‘determined’ to be positive – a quality that has followed her in her real estate work, as a mother of her two young daughters, with husband Troy. 

“She’s a beautiful, kind person, and anyone that knows her, knows that, and would do that in return like tenfold,” she said.

“She works, she runs a household, she runs around for the girls and she just does everything for everyone else, you think now’s the time that we help her.

“Kate definitely put herself on the back burner, life kind of got in the way.”

To donate to support Kate’s journey, visit www.gofundme.com/f/kate-win-the-fight-of-her-life.

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