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Garth Callaghan has a daughter. He also has two types of cancer with a prognosis that gives him an eight percent chance of living long enough to see her graduate high school. Callaghan also has a mission, a promise really... to write 826 notes on napkins for his daughter. One note for her lunch, everyday, until she graduates high school.

Callaghan’s napkin notes are not a new thing. They’ve made their way into his daughter Emma’s lunchbox ever since she was in kindergarten, 10 years ago.

"The notes were very simple to begin with," said Callaghan. "As she grew, the notes did as well. They became more deep with meaning and I used them as a way to inspire her to become a better student or be a better friend."

However after Callaghan was diagnosed with cancer for the first time he started looking at the notes in a different light.

"I looked at them as possibly leaving a legacy and kind of a tool to help her grow up to be a strong confident women," said Callaghan.


Some of the notes are Callaghan’s own words of wisdom, or lessons he wants to pass down. One of those napkins reads, "Let us be thankful for the problems we don't have."

Other napkins have quotes written on them from famous leaders and other notable historical figures.

"We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone. - Ronald Reagan"

Callaghan noticed that after his first diagnosis, his daughter Emma started saving his notes in a composition notebook.

"I thought to myself this is a way to share these notes and maybe inspire other parents other dads to help them connect with other kids," said Callaghan.

From there, Callaghan got permission from Emma to share the napkins on social media sites, where they quickly gained the attention of the Internet community and media. Soon, Callaghan was asked to write a book sharing his journey as a cancer patient and a parent. You can read his reflections and wisdom in Napkin Notes: Make Lunch Meaningful, Life Will Follow.


The newfound fame has given Callaghan a new outlet, and larger audience to continue to spread his message of the importance of connecting with your loved ones while you have the chance.

"Ultimately I want parents to realize and frankly anyone to realize that it’s not too late to connect with a loved one and build a strong relationship. The time to do it is now and you don’t really want to wait to do it when your doctor looks you in the eye and gives you a strong diagnosis. So do it now. Do it today."

Although Callaghan’s future may be uncertain, as he’s currently fighting both kidney and prostate cancer, he’s making the most of his present.

Callaghan has recently partnered up with Patients Like Me to bring awareness to and encourage others to share their medical data.

"A couple years ago I started to really research my illnesses"  said Callaghan."I had been diagnosed twice at that point and I was struggling with making good medical decisions. I learned about Patients Like Me and… became a member. [I] started typing in my medical information and I was doing that really to connect with other patients to learn how they alieved some of their side effects the symptoms… and how to better speak with my doctors."

Callaghan notes that sharing medical data helps create a database that serves as a resource for both patients and doctors, to help everyone find new treatment options and ideas.

Besides his work with Patients Like Me, Callaghan is also slated to start work on a new book in the new year, about fellow cancer patients that he describes as being "more inspirational" than he is.

To learn more about Callaghan and check out some of his napkins, check out his website here. We wish him all the best with his life, love and inspirations. 

Photo Credit: Napkin Notes Dad 

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