Listen to the full interview here
Welcome to Coffee with a Coastie. We were excited to chat with Kate Perkins. Kate has worn many hats throughout her life, from elite athlete, to mustering cattle on horseback and is now a passionate practitioner in cancer rehabilitation. So, it was an absolute pleasure to sit down and chat with Kate about her inspirational journey and her passion to help and inspire others.
You were born in Darwin and used to live in Queensland. What brought you to the Central Coast?
I journeyed all around the world and did a lot of things before moving to the Central Coast. With a majority of my growing up being in Yeppoon in Central Queensland. Then after school I spent 12 months in Japan as a Rotary exchange student and became fluent in Japanese, before I returned to Australia and applied for a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese. Once I finished the degree there was a lot of traveling overseas to Canada, Europe and everywhere. Until I came back and went on a surf trip to Hawaii in 1998 with a friend that was a remedial massage therapist and I thought I could do that. So when I came back from that trip I went and studied remedial massage therapy and did that for a huge chunk of my life. Though after years as a remedial massage therapist my hands wouldn’t work anymore, so I’ve gone, okay what am I going to do now? I then ended up in Sydney and went back and studied occupational therapy. It was at the end of studying that in 2013 that I met Ben, my partner, who lived on the Central Coast and I’ve been here ever since.
You have told me that it was through a desire to create something meaningful in your life and to inspire your own son Nat, that your business Cancer Rehabilitation & Lymphatic Solutions was created to help others. Who is it that has inspired you in your life?
Mum! She’s a quietly driven person. She always said to me, I’m not as brave as you to get out there and do the things that you’ve done. But she was a nurse, and I was born in Darwin and my brother was born in Katherine in the Northern Territory and we were living in Maningrida in Arnhem Land, as Dad was in the police force in the Northern Territory. So, we were completely isolated and away from family. Back then mum was in her early twenties with two young children and the only way you could get in and out was by sea or by barge that came every three months. So, you know she’s a massive inspiration. She’s a quietly determined, very strong lady. That’s pretty inspiring and she always encouraged me to do what I needed to do, but was also always a little bit cautious. Saying things like, you’re a bit brave in doing that, or do you think that’s the right thing? My Dad was also always there to encourage me and support me with whatever I wanted to do.
Out of all that you’ve done, what do you feel has been your greatest achievement?
First of all, I think my greatest achievement was starting a family. As I was a late starter in that department, because of all the traveling and things. Also, I felt that I wanted to achieve something great before I had a family. So my kids could have something to look up to. But it wasn’t until our son Nat was 18 months old that I started my business from scratch in 2017. So, starting our family and building my practice happened all at the same time, which was pretty cool. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I think my practice has been my greatest achievement other than my family.
You have developed good habits around exercise, though what do you recommend to someone that associates exercise with being a challenging task, that drains energy and wears them down, rather than increasing endurance and building them up?
Start low and progress slow. I work with women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I work with them all the way through their treatment. I’ve worked with women who haven’t had exercise in their life, and I’ve started working with them through their chemotherapy, and by the time they’ve finished their chemo and had their surgery, they come out the other side stronger than when they started and maintained it.
I start with breathing, which has a number of different benefits. One of those benefits is increasing the oxygen to the brain. So automatically you feel more energized. Then from there, if you’re a bit more energized you might feel like doing some stretches, which should be gentle, but still sending more oxygen to the muscles. From that point you might feel a bit stronger and you’ve got more energy, so you might feel like doing some weights or going for a walk. Starting gently maybe a couple of times a week. As you start feeling really good, then you’re eating habits might change. When you start eating well, your body starts to feel amazing. So, it’s guiding them into feeling good. Then when you’ve got more energy and you feel good, how could you not want to feel like that?
You use MLS Laser Therapy as part of your treatment. What is it that made you realise the MLS Laser Therapy was perfect for your patients?
As a cancer rehab and lymphoedema therapist, I was using a handheld laser, what they call a low level laser, to help soften radiation scar tissue, surgical scar tissue and soften harder lymphedema tissue. This handheld laser had a diode of half a centimetre, and you’d have to have it on a point for one minute and then move it two centimetres and have it on for another minute and do that until you’ve covered an area which could take a really long time. Then I was at the Australasian Lymphology Association Symposium on the Gold Coast where I met Dr. Catherine Norton who had a stand there and I asked her about the lasers. She had the non–robotic M5 MLS laser. It has what’s called a Charlie head hands free laser diode, which has three laser diodes. So, you could treat someone hands free without putting your hands on them and treat a large area. It also had a handheld component, so immediately without Catherine explaining everything I’m looking at the hands free component and the handheld component, thinking I could treat two places at once on the body. The treatment itself is called photo biomodulation therapy using an MLS laser and the results are immediate. Increasing the number of people that I’m able to see and getting amazing outcomes for my patients. We’re also using the laser during radiation to prevent or reduce the likelihood of radiation dermatitis or reducing that radiation burn superficially. But what it’s also doing is starting to heal the tissue underneath that’s been damaged from radiation. I’ve used the laser during their radiation treatment and the area that’s been treated has remained soft and their breast tissue has remained soft.
Lastly, the first time we met in 2021, you had just danced in the Stars of the Central Coast for the first time. You are now returning in 2023 to the Stars of the Central Coast as an All Star. How did this come about?
The first time I danced in the Stars of the Central Coast I’d previously done some collaboration work with the Cancer Council. So when I saw it pop up on Facebook or the news somewhere I was thinking, I’d love to do that and I said to Jaynie from the Cancer Council, how do I get on it? It was a few months after that, when I’m pretty sure someone went out with an injury that they’ve gone, who can we get, let’s get Kate. So, I was a wild card in 2021. Which was awesome because it was what I wanted to do; I love dancing. I’ve never done formal dancing before. But as a kid my girlfriend used to choreograph. She was excellent and I used to copy what she did, and I loved it. One of my dreams was to perform a number out of Chicago the musical on stage to a packed house. So when Lauren, my dance partner said, we’re doing a Broadway number, we’re going to do a number out of Chicago. I’ve gone, are you kidding me? I had such an awesome experience and wanted to do it again. So when the All Stars came around, because this is their 10 year anniversary, I was like, pick me, pick me and this year I’m dancing salsa with Krin from Central Coast Salsa.
As part of being in the Stars of the Central Coast, there’s fundraising and raising awareness about the Cancer Council, with all the funds that are raised staying on the Central Coast, and over the 10 years it’s been running $1.1 million has been raised by the Stars, which is pretty phenomenal.
We offer our gratitude for all that Kate does and for sharing her story with us. If you want to find out more about Kate, go to her website www.lymphaticsolutions.com.au