Saturday, 29 February 2020


The touching story of Luana Tupou

The touching story of Luana Tupou

First Luana Tupou, the newly appointed site manager at Z Whitianga, tells you her family call her "Spare Parts." Initially you may think that’s a touch rude, but then she tells you her twin sister, Arna, calls her "Lifesaver." And then it all starts to make sense.

Early in 2011 Arna was diagnosed with aggressive forms of lymphoma and leukaemia. Her doctor told her chemotherapy had to start immediately or she would only have a few weeks more to live. "We were 38-years-old then," said Luana. "I remember thinking to myself, ‘We’re too young for something like this to happen to one of us.
And it should be me. Arna has kids, I don’t.’ Arna and her family lived in Tauranga at that time and I was in Hamilton.

"Our family really stood by Arna during her illness. Five of us, mum, our older sister, Arna’s husband, her father in law and me, shaved all our hair and took turns to stay with her in hospital. I even got a job as orderly at the hospital so I could be as close to Arna as possible."

After a few cycles of chemo, Arna was given more bad news - the treatment wasn’t working. She was told her only option was a bone marrow transplant (also known as a stem cell transplant) from a perfect match. "As a twin sister, I was thought to be the obvious choice," continued Luana. "But the doctors wanted to be absolutely sure. The risk of Arna’s body rejecting the transplant had to be eliminated as much as possible. We were three siblings who were tested. I cleaned up on my act a bit, no smoking and drinking, and when the news came that I was a perfect match, I was ecstatic. It was one of the best days of my life.

"The transplant process was very tough on Arna. The doctors had to kill all her diseased blood cells. That could only be done with more heavy doses of chemo and full body radiation. The day of the transplant I had to lie down for 13 hours with all these tubes coming in and out of my body filtering out my healthy red blood cells. Arna later told me when they started to feed my healthy cells into her body, it felt like she was given magic juice.

"The treatment certainly worked as Arna was sent home ten days later. And a bit more than a year after that the doctors gave her the all clear."

Luana moved to Whitianga the beginning of last year and she loves it here. She tries to get to Arna and her family in Tauranga as much as possible. "Arna’s illness was very tough on us all," she said. "But in the end it all worked out well. For me every day is now a good day, knowing my twin sister is OK and that she can be with her husband and kids."


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.