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Brave Amber’s battle

Amber Arkell (right) in March just after she found out her cancer had returned, with her friend Kelsey Brosnan at an Ed Sheeran concert. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Cancer recurrence forces new tack in treatment

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Last December Amber Arkell was celebrating two years cancer-free.

She and her long-term partner Kieran were finally planning their future together after a rocky few years.

The former St Matthew’s girl was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 26, and underwent intensive treatment including chemotherapy and a double mastectomy with reconstruction.

Now the cancer has returned, and Amber’s friends and family in Wairarapa and further afield are banding together to help fundraise for the challenges ahead.

The 28-year-old, who now lives in Christchurch, said she was vigilant with her medical check-ups and had made significant lifestyle changes to limit the chances of the cancer returning.

But despite her efforts, the worst was confirmed in March after Amber “noticed skin dimpling in the breast”.

Like the first diagnosis, the secondary cancer was aggressive but caught at an early stage.

However, an attempt to remove all the cancer was unsuccessful and Amber will be back in surgery next Wednesday, followed by radiation.

A sales and marketing executive, Amber said she was taking a different approach to treatment this time around.

She’s heading to the Sanoviv Medical Institute in Mexico which offers a unique blend of conventional, alternative and integrative treatments.

“Not everyone agrees with this sort of approach to health, but I’ve done chemotherapy, I’ve done the preventive surgery, I did all the hormone treatments – I went through the health system, I did what I was told and look where I’m at.

“And the more I’ve been immersed in this world, the more I’ve understood that cancer is a symptom of other things going on in your body.”

At Sanoviv, Amber will undergo a three-week intensive cancer programme, including intense diagnostic testing, detoxification, then the rebuilding of her immune system.

The goal of her visit is to identify the root cause of her disease and come up with a detailed, personalised treatment plan specifically for her body.

Amber said both her doctor and surgeon were “on board” with her decision.

“They all understand why I’m looking into this.

“It was a really hard decision to make but at the end of the day, what’s your life worth?”

Amber said she’s always been financially independent so it was extremely hard for her to ask for help.

The cost of her Mexico trip is expected to be about $45,000.

She is taking out a personal loan to help cover this, with her loved ones are doing all they can to contribute.

Masterton’s Ashleigh O’Brien is hosting a movie fundraiser at Regent 3 Cinemas on May 6.

New Zealand Comedy ‘The Breaker Upperers’ will be screened at 4pm, with welcome drinks and nibbles included in the $20 tickets.

So far, more than $6000 has been raised on a Givealittle page: Sisters brave the shave for Amber Arkell [https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/sisters-brave-the-shave-for-amber-arkell].

Two Palmerston North-based sisters, Kelsey Brosnan and Caitlin Kooyman, will shave their heads at an event at the end of May, with money raised going towards Amber’s Mexico trip.

Any additional funds raised will be passed on to New Zealand breast cancer awareness charities and trusts.

Through her ongoing cancer journey, Amber has remained upbeat, and has used her situation to inspire and educate others.

She has documented her experience via her candid blog, When Things Went Tits Up, which now has 5421 Facebook followers.

On this blog, she gives women and men monthly reminders to conduct self-breast examinations.

She won a Kiwibank Local Hero Award in 2016, and has raised awareness about breast cancer through giving free talks around the country.

People have come forward and shared their own stories with her, and many friendships had formed.

“As shit as the situation is, there have been some incredible silver linings.”


  1. She is such an inspirational young woman! I’ve followed her journey right from the beginning and admire her so much!

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