Thames-Coromandel Mayor Glenn Leach was more scared for his family than himself when he discovered a lump on the side of his neck while shaving.

The 62-year-old waited until his oldest son, Brent, spotted it a few weeks later while visiting his dad at his Whitianga home before he got it checked out.

"He said, 'Listen you, either you go to the doctor on Monday or I'm staying and taking you'," Mayor Leach said.

The grandfather-of-five booked a doctor's appointment the next day. But there was part of him that didn't want to know because he was aware of what could happen.


Four years ago, his wife Rennie, to whom he was married for 40 years, died of melanoma. His pain is visible as he remembers nursing her through the illness. The last thing he wanted was for Brent, 43, and other son Andy, 41, to lose another parent to cancer.

"I felt really sorry for the boys because they were frightened and so were these boys [he points to a photo of his three Auckland grandchildren hanging on his office wall] in seeing me crook. And suddenly it began to hit home."

Doctors confirmed Mr Leach had lymphoma cancer, but he classes himself as lucky because he caught it early.

The malignant lump was removed during a four-hour surgery last month and doctors believe they got it all.

There is little evidence of his illness - the scar on the lower right side of his neck where he was operated on is also fading.

Next month, the mayor will travel back to Waikato Hospital every week day to undergo radiation to make sure the cancer is completely eradicated.

And despite the intensive treatment, he has no plans to take time off work.

"If it starts knocking me around I'm going to have to deal with it, but I'm okay," Mr Leach said.


"I'm clear everywhere else. I've been tipped upside down and shaken and scanned and had a bone marrow test ... I seem to be clear."

Second wife Trudi, to whom he's been married for two years, has been hugely supportive at home and during his first 18 months as mayor and they are looking forward to a well-deserved trip to Europe next month.

They were both under no illusions that being mayor would be hard work, but Mr Leach said he hadn't anticipated how much time he would spend in the office. He had imagined he would be able to get around the communities more.

Sitting in his modest office at the council's Thames headquarters, dressed in boat shoes, jeans and a navy blue woollen vest, he is proud of his council's work so far.

He is particularly proud of how staff dealt with the aftermath of finding arsenic levels up to 235 times higher than the national soil contaminant standard at the Moanataiari subdivision near Thames last year.

Not to mention making true on his election promise of reining in costs by cutting $40 million off the long-term plan and restructuring the organisation to help re-empower the communities. The restructure also led to 32 job losses and a saving of $1.3 million a year.


The council had already restructured its tourism operation, Destination Coromandel, and tackled its arduous district plan review as it approached the half-term mark.

Mr Leach was quick to dispel suggestions the council just rubber-stamped documents and said that while the councillors didn't always agree with him, they all had the same mission. And while the next election will be the real test of the council's success, the straight-talking mayor is keeping mum on whether he will even stand again.

* Lymphomas are cancers that affect the lymphatic system.
* Abnormal lymphocytes, called lymphoma cells, accumulate and form collections of cancer cells in glands and other parts of the body.
* Over time they weaken the immune system.


Commonly present as a firm, painless swelling of a lymph node usually in the neck, under the arms or in the groin.
Other symptoms include:

* Recurrent fevers.
* Excessive sweating at night.
* Unintentional weight loss.
* Persistent lack of energy.
* Generalised itching.
(Source: Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand)