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

Omokoroa teacher heading home after specialist leukaemia treatment in Australia

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Leanne and her husband Gavin Thomson on some adventures around Australia during her treatment. Photo/Supplied
Leanne and her husband Gavin Thomson on some adventures around Australia during her treatment. Photo/Supplied

A Bay teacher is heading home after specialist cancer treatment in Australia.

Leanne Thompson has won her third battle with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia after first being diagnosed with the disease when she was 26.

She has been at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne since April receiving Blincyto, a new immunotherapy drug not offered in New Zealand.

She was offered the treatment under compassionate consideration.

To fund the treatment herself she would have had to be able to pay upwards of $250,000.

Her hospital and medical costs have cost about $150,000 and she has paid $50,000 for flights, accommodation, transport and living costs.

A teacher at Omokoroa Number One School, her colleagues and students helped raise over $43,000 towards her treatment.

The day Leanne Thompson found out she was in remission. Photo Supplied.
The day Leanne Thompson found out she was in remission. Photo Supplied.

"When I arrived in Melbourne I had a Hickman line put in, my platelets and blood were all pretty low - my marrow was packed full of leukaemia," the 35-year old told The Bay of Plenty Times from Australia.

She was then hooked up to Blinatomomab, which was infused into her body for 24 hours a day over 28 days.

She stayed in the hospital for the first 10 days of treatment as doctors increased the dosage of the drug and watched for reactions including fevers, neurological problems and toxicity in liver.

"I spent the rest of the month out and about with my pump in a handbag, going back into the outpatients for a cartridge change twice a week. After a month had passed, I had a bone marrow biopsy which showed I was in full remission- no leukaemia cells detected."

In between cycles of Blinatomomab, she would have two weeks off before she started next cycle of the drug. She was now on her fourth cycle, which she will finish today.

She is about to come back to New Zealand for her first eight-week break, she said.

"I feel much better than when I left NZ in April, I look completely normal - you don't lose your hair with Blin.

"I am trying to stay positive - I mean who wouldn't with results like these."

Mrs Thompson hopes to have a bone marrow transplant when she is back home in New Zealand but knows too well how hard they can be on the body.

Leanne Thompson in hospital getting a new immunotherapy drug. Photo/Supplied
Leanne Thompson in hospital getting a new immunotherapy drug. Photo/Supplied

"You basically have to rebuild yourself back up again from scratch - fitness, muscle, mind, hair. Emotions do go up and down. In an ideal world, the Blin would be a cure.

"But because it is so new, the research so far says that I would relapse within a year once I finish it. The transplant itself has its odds of about 30 per cent cure rate, but the hope is that the Blin has helped eradicate all the sneaky cells that may still be hiding somewhere."

Mrs Thompson hopes to get back to school while home.

The school was still fundraising for her.

"I would love to say a huge thank you to all the continuing support, love and positive vibes from the students, teachers, parents and community. The Omokoroa No.1 school community is the best and I am so proud to have them all as my second family."

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