Kiwi mum shares heartbreaking story of how late husband received terminal diagnosis weeks after welcoming their baby girl

Abby, Cam and Elsie Hopkirk
Abby Hopkirk's life turned upside down when her late husband received his terminal cancer diagnosis - two months after the birth of their daughter. Photo credit: @hopstagrams / Instagram

A Kiwi couple who had long dreamed of becoming parents were overjoyed to welcome their first child, a baby girl, in November 2022 - but mere weeks later, their world turned upside down when the father was given just months to live.   

Just eight weeks after their daughter Elsie's arrival, Abby and Cam Hopkirk were dealt a devastating blow: 30-year-old Cam was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  

The couple, from Napier, were informed the new dad had just six to 18 months to live - due to a small yet aggressive tumour growing on his right frontal lobe.

Two weeks after Elsie's first birthday, Cam died on November 19, 2023.    

Now 28, Abby is navigating the grief of losing her husband, as well as a new life raising her daughter alone. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Abby has now shared candid insights into the tragedy, including the incidents that led to Cam's terminal diagnosis.   

Speaking to the outlet, Abby revealed that the first indicator of Cam's illness appeared in September 2022 when the young father-to-be developed a limp in his left leg. Assuming it was a rugby-related injury, Cam made appointments with a chiropractor and physiotherapist, but nothing helped.   

Unbeknownst to Cam, the limp was a symptom of the tumour that would ultimately prove fatal; and the beginning of full leg paralysis.   

After visiting a GP in mid-November, he was referred to the hospital for urgent scans; however, the scans were later cancelled as the doctors "didn't think he needed them," Abby recalled.   

Six days later, Cam suffered a "terrifying" seizure - "he'd never had one in his life up until that point," Abby said - followed by another seizure as they sat in the hospital's waiting room.   

That afternoon, an MRI and CT scan confirmed he had a small but aggressive tumour measuring a centimetre by a centimetre. Cam underwent surgery on December 13, during which a biopsy was taken. The following day, it was confirmed the tumour was cancerous. 

With Christmas looming, the family were told to go home and enjoy the holidays before Cam's treatment would commence.   

It was now January - and the doctors informed Cam, Abby and their two-month-old daughter that the cancer was terminal.   

"The thing with brain cancer is that you don't look or feel sick. Cam was in the best health he had been in in a long time, his blood tests were perfect, so it was shocking because we didn't see it coming," Abby told the Daily Mail. 

While he recovered from his surgery, Cam had to wait six weeks before starting radiotherapy and three months of chemotherapy - a period Abby said was "torture".  

"It was awful. You know that there's something in your brain growing and slowly killing you, but you can't do anything about it."  

For Abby, it was the second tragedy to strike her family: just a year prior, her dad had died from a sudden heart attack at the age of 52.   

Determined to spend as much precious time together as possible, Abby made it her mission to create "really happy memories" during the time Cam was given. But catering to both her newborn daughter and terminally ill husband proved difficult for Abby, who felt she was "constantly being pulled and failing in both directions."

She recalled that Cam would suffer almost constant seizures during the first few weeks of his treatment, estimating up to 50 a day as his medication was constantly changed in an attempt to control it. 

In a bid to make special memories as a family, the Hopkirks spent 15 weeks travelling around New Zealand, a trip Abby said was a "nightmare" at times, but ultimately led to "amazing photos and videos" for Elsie to look back on in the years to come.  

After the trip, Cam's condition began to deteriorate, hastened by the fact he was no longer undergoing chemotherapy. He was sleeping for 15 hours a day, could barely walk, and struggled to lift his daughter, Abby told the outlet.

A little over a week after celebrating Elsie's first birthday, Cam died at home on November 19.  

"To be honest, he was ready to go. It's no way to live your life," she told the Daily Mail. "Elsie gives me purpose; she gives me a reason to get up in the morning.  

"The hardest part is the [number] of times in the day when I think, 'I can't wait to tell Cam this' - and realising I can't."  

Before Elsie was born, Cam began writing a journal for her to read when she's older. He continued making entries in the journal throughout his treatment, until his final days.  

The book is filled with polaroid snaps, personal anecdotes and stories for his daughter to look back on, Abby said - providing some solace that Elsie will always know how much her dad loved her.

Now, Abby continues to share updates on her life via Instagram, where she and Cam documented their journey through his diagnosis. Her page, The Hopkirks - which goes by the username @hopstagrams - has since amassed over 22,200 followers.