SURVIVOR: Neil Campion is celebrating 10 years in remission after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 2010.
SURVIVOR: Neil Campion is celebrating 10 years in remission after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 2010.

You’ve gotta have faith: Man’s miraculous decade of survival

NEIL Campion had never been a religious man, but when he lay in Townsville Hospital battling a rare form of leukaemia, he found his faith restored.

In 2010, the Sarina man was mowing his uncle’s lawn when he began profusely vomiting.

Shrugging it off as dehydration, he went home to rest.

But as soon as he began to tackle the lawn again the next day, it started up again and didn’t stop for days.

When his blood test results came back from his doctor, he was floored – it was leukaemia.

“It was overwhelming. That sort of thing happens to others, never you, but it did happen,” he said.

After three weeks at Mackay Base Hospital, where Mr Campion, 45, was unable to keep any food down, he was flown to Townsville General Hospital.

Further blood tests revealed Mr Campion had a rare bone marrow disorder and type of leukaemia, hyper-eosinophilia.

Where most people have an eosinophil (type of white blood cell) count of 0-8, Mr Campion’s was sitting at a whopping 180,000, and after a “sweep” to remove excess cells, they plummeted to below zero.

By a stroke of luck, a cousin he hadn’t seen in 20 years, Dana Donald, was visiting a friend in hospital at the time – she was a 100 per cent blood match.

After a successful cell donation from Ms Donald, Mr Campion’s odds were improving, but after a couple of arrhythmias, a bout of golden staph, cellulitis and two clots in a vein (one of which travelled to his heart and required open heart surgery), the battle wasn’t over yet.

He had lost so much muscle and was so weak his family had to feed him at one stage, he had to learn to walk again and his chemotherapy had to be delivered via tablets – a milder dose which still made his hair fall out.

Mr Campion would pray with Ms Donald regularly, something that gave him a different view of religion.

“I wasn’t religious before this, not to the extent I am now,” he said.

“I’m not a regular churchgoer but I believe. I sort of laughed at things to do with that earlier on but when you go through it, it’s a different story.”

Mr Campion was released from hospital in November 2010, and after six years, no longer had to receive white blood cell stabilising injections.

This year is a huge milestone for the St Patrick’s College special needs teacher aide – 10 years of remission.

“At times I feel like crying. I’m glad to be alive,” he said.

In 2017, Mr Campion received another blow, when he required three stents in his heart due to blocked arteries.

The following year, he was involved in a motorbike accident and developed a clot in the brain – resulting in a couple of weeks of hospitalisation in Townsville.

“I came through. I thank the Lord above. Someone was looking after me,” he said.

“At the start of my leukaemia, I thought I didn’t think I wouldn’t get through it. I always thought I’d come good eventually.

“There were times when I was sitting there and thinking of everything I’d taken for granted before and thought I might never experience it again.

“There were times I seemed to get better but then went downhill. It was testing in those times.

“I’m glad I’m here today and that I didn’t give up.”

Mr Campion will remain on blood thinners for the rest of his life as well as other medication in the long term, but for him, it’s “a small price to pay”.

His advice to others in similar positions is simple – don’t give up.

“Keep going. You’ll have your bad days but it’s all in the mind, I think,” he said.

“Keep that confidence and say to yourself ‘I’m going to beat this’ and hopefully that will happen for you.”



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