A Benalla woman has been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of the community in her ongoing battle with a rare and deadly form of leukaemia.
After a brief stint in remission, Kate Leith is once again battling b cell prolymphocytic leukaemia, a very rare and incurable form of blood cancer.
Her next option is a drug from America, but at tens of thousands of dollars for a round of treatment, it’s generally out of reach for most families.
That’s where Benalla P-12 College steps in, starting a Go Fund Me page to raise money for Mrs Leith’s treatment, who is also an employee at the school.
‘‘They knew I wasn’t well and knew I was looking at a drug from America, but the cost was really high,’’ Mrs Leith said.
Benalla P-12 College is hoping that the Benalla community will get behind the cause and assist to help raise funds for a cure for Mrs Leith.
Principal Barbara O’Brien said many of their school community would know Mrs Leith, who works part-time in the Faithfull College office.
‘‘Kate has been a wonderful addition to our Faithfull Campus with her bright and bubbly personality,’’ Ms O’Brien said.
‘‘She has been an inspiration to us all and we are hoping that the community will help assist with raising funds to assist her treatment.’’
Mrs Leith was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2011, and due to the rarity of the cancer, was only given two years to live.
‘‘Six months after my son Noah was born in 2011, I was still feeling really tired and didn’t have any energy,’’ she said.
Doctors told her it was likely just the after-effects of childbirth, but Mrs Leith wasn’t convinced and got blood tests, which confirmed the leukaemia diagnosis.
It was completely unexpected.
‘‘I was young, I had a family and I had too much to live for,’’ she said.
‘‘The first two years of treatment I had chemotherapy, but to no avail.’’
The chemotherapy did help for a period of time in slowing the progression of the leukaemia, but it eventually left her run down and exhausted. She decided to stop the treatment to improve her quality of life.
‘‘If this was what my life was going to be, I didn’t want to be sick all the time, I wanted to be with my family,’’ Mrs Leith said.
In 2015, she started an American trial for an immune-boosting drug, which saw her go into remission in November that year.
However, it didn’t last — eight months later she was given the dreaded news that her cancer had returned.
‘‘I started getting really tired again, and my body started to ache and I found it hard to get out of bed,’’ she said.
‘‘Even after I got up, a couple of hours later I’d feel like I needed to go back to bed.’’
The previous trial had been discontinued as it wasn’t successful for many people and her options were limited.
Unfortunately the new drug isn’t on the PBS, and will come at a huge cost — because Mrs Leith’s cancer is so rare she has been approved for special consideration, but will still have to raise $20000 for six months’ treatment.
Since the Go Fund Me page was started in mid-February, it’s already garnered plenty of support and raised more than $19000 in 10 days.
Mrs Leith said she was overwhelmed with people’s generosity and was eternally grateful for the support.
‘‘I feel very blessed,’’ she said.
‘‘We’re quite private people, so it was daunting to open up about it when we realised we needed to turn to the community for help.
‘‘But we’ve been overwhelmed by the support from the community, it’s been amazing.’’
She said while $20000 was definitely not something the family had lying around, the support had relieved a lot of stress.
Almost at their fundraising goal, it means she can start treatment as soon as possible.
People trialling the drug have had the most success when they stayed on the drug, so Mrs Leith is hoping she can stay on it for as long as possible.
●To donate to the Cure for Kate, visit gofundme.com/jgftf-cure-for-kate/