Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Pupils raising cash to send popular teacher to Melbourne for treatment

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A Bay teacher battling cancer for the fourth time is putting her final hopes on a new immunotherapy drug not available in New Zealand.

Next week Leanne Thompson will fly to Melbourne where she will receive Blincyto, the new immunotherapy drug.

She has been offered the treatment under compassionate consideration.

To fund the treatment herself she would have had to be able to pay $254,000. However, hospital and medical costs would still cost her and her husband, Gavin, about $145,000.

Her students, Room 14 of Omokoroa No1 School, had helped raise $20,000 for her cause.

This weekend, they are going to hold a fundraiser at the school.

Mrs Thompson said she was battling her third war with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 10 years after first being diagnosed when she was 26.

"I had random bruises everywhere, I was exhausted.

"I had a blood test one afternoon just to check things out and that night I was in Waikato Hospital having chemo the next day. I was pretty dire, if you do nothing you have a few weeks [to live]."

She underwent two years of treatment, pulled through and went into remission.

Devastatingly, she relapsed in July 2014.

Four more months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant later, she went back into remission.

A routine blood check on March 1 this year showed the cancer had returned.

She also suffered from breast cancer a few years ago and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction.

Mrs Thompson, 35, said because of all the treatment she had in New Zealand she had nearly exhausted her options.

"I've lost count of how many times I've been bald," she said.

"I just tell everybody I am taking one for the team.

"Or several for the team. My family, the kids, the school. No one else can get sick."

She was scared and overwhelmed about the treatment, but excited too as it was her best chance, she said.

She hoped to fly to Australia on Saturday, while Omokoroa No1 School held their fundraiser for her.

Mrs Thompson's colleague Meg Ryan said Room 14 students were shocked and upset when she was diagnosed.

"They said 'we have to make sure she can live'."

The children in the class had gone above and beyond for their teacher, she said.

A group of boys in the class squeezed oranges and sold the juice one weekend, other children set up stalls outside their house and have sold fruit.

The children then came up with the idea of a mini market and a car wash, which they will run themselves, she said.

Mrs Ryan said everybody who met Mrs Thompson wanted to do something to help her cause. She and another teacher, Sarah Jane Little, would also shave their heads this weekend along with some children from the school.

"I can be brave enough to do that when she has been through so much and inspired all of us through her journey."

Cancer battle:

* On April 9, from noon to 2pm, Omokoroa No1 School will hold a fundraiser for their beloved teacher Leanne Thompson which will include a car boot sale, a car wash, pony rides, live jazz and a mini market at the school on the corner Emeny and Plummers Point roads. Donations can also be made at www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/leannethompsonfundraiser

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