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Leah discharged from US cancer hospital

Leah Xuereb before her operation.

Leah Xuereb before her operation.

Leah Xuereb has been discharged from hospital after receiving successful treatment for cancer in the US and on Wednesday will be on a plane bound for Malta.

She is laughing and giggling again, and even smiling at the nurses who used to annoy her

The toddler’s parents are exhausted but relieved as doctors have informed them that Leah, who spent half her life in hospital, will not need chemotherapy anymore.

“We’re leaving the US on Tuesday. We’ve gone through a lot, but when we were given the good news we forgot everything and a sense of relief overcame us. We had to suffer, true, but at least it was all for a good cause. The operation was tough, but it was also a miracle,” her father Jonathan told The Sunday Times.

Mr Xuereb added that Leah did not need antibiotics and painkillers anymore, and the doctors informed them she would not have to have chemotherapy because the operation had gone well.

On November 12, she underwent a complicated 12-hour surgery in a specialised Texas hospital to remove a very rare form of stomach cancer, after previous treatment in London failed.

The doctors were always confident that they had removed the entire tumour, but in the following weeks she battled infection and fluctuating temperatures and the doctors could not give the go-ahead for solid food. Her parents would guide her to the playroom, hoping she would be encouraged to play, but she still did not feel like walking or playing.

After a tough month, good news flowed in during the past few days. Leah was a bit under the weather on her fourth birthday on Sunday, feeling sleepy and not in the mood of playing. But by Wednesday, she started to get better and the doctors gave the go ahead for solid food. “And believe me she ate! I gave her all she asked for, I was so glad she had an appetite... five pieces of crackers, a cherry tomato, baby carrots, four pieces of chocolate, a piece of bread... The doctors were surprised as much as we were.”

Leah has also been making trips to the hotel where her parents are sleeping, 10 minutes away from the hospital.

“She is laughing and giggling again, and even smiling at the nurses who used to annoy her because they had to administer medicine and make sure the pipes she had attached to her body were in place,” her father said.

Mr Xuereb added that the three of them were packed and ready to come back home.

“After visiting Leah, the doctors used to ask us whether we need anything else, and I was always quick to reply: ‘When can we go back home?’”

Mr Xuereb said that although they had to travel all the way to the US for the specialised surgery, nothing beats the friendly staff and atmosphere at Mater Dei Hospital.

He also expressed gratitude for the support he found in the Maltese and the Government, urging people to help out others in the yearly L-Istrina marathon.

He had always helped out when he could, never in a million years thinking he would need other people’s help through the same channels.

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