More than a decade since his diagnosis, two-time leukaemia survivor Josh Komen is pledging to ‘give back’ to those who were there for him during his darkest days. The former athlete – who was known as one of New Zealand’s fastest runners – has just been announced as the first-ever ambassador for the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust, a charity which runs Rānui House in Christchurch. The announcement comes as the House celebrates its 30th birthday.
The decision to be an Ambassador for the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust is deeply personal for Josh. He was just 23 when, in 2011, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, a type of cancer of the blood. Young, fit, and healthy – or so he thought – Josh had been on track to represent New Zealand at the next Commonwealth Games. But then he woke up one morning feeling dizzy and dazed, with a swollen eye, and he sought advice at the local hospital in Greymouth.
“I had been planning a trip to Thailand with friends, but a doctor turned to me and told me that wasn’t going to happen. There was cancer in my blood, and I needed to head to the Bone Marrow Unit at Christchurch Hospital for urgent treatment. That’s when I first met the team at Rānui House.”
Josh’s diagnosis took him on a 10-year battle of deep depression, a second cancer diagnosis, an allogeneic stem cell transplant, being put into a coma, developing graft vs host disease, multiple complications, and treatment overseas in Australia for five years, all while experiencing multiple heart attacks.
“It was the most challenging and desperate time of my life, but Rānui House and the people there were my lifeline – a beacon of hope during a very dark time. They helped save my life.”
Josh is now cancer-free and enjoys life in Greymouth with his wife and 7-month-old daughter. He says being asked to be an ambassador for the Trust is “a huge honour”.
“I’m thriving, my smile has tripled in size…because I should be dead, I should be dead more than once and here I am enjoying life, and now I’ve been given this opportunity to be an ambassador – to advocate and raise funds for Rānui House, a place that’s helped me so much on my journey,” says Josh.
Mandy Kennedy, CEO of the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust is delighted to welcome Josh back to the Rānui House family, this time as “one of the team”.
“Josh is a man of unquestionable character, passion, and drive – it is these qualities, coupled with his journey with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia that makes him an obvious choice for this role.”
Mandy is excited about what the future holds for the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust and Rānui House – with support from the community, it can continue to evolve to help more families in need.
“Rānui House is growing. We are continuing to face high demand for our services and as a charitable trust that relies on donations, we can’t meet this need alone. We’re thrilled to have Josh join us, to help us raise awareness and to celebrate our achievements.”
Over the last 30 years, Rānui House has provided more than 150,000 bed nights. In 2022 alone Rānui House was a home away from home for 1,193 patients and their families. With demand increasing for the unique blend of accommodation and support Rānui House provides, the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust is expanding its offering with a 43-apartment complex on Selwyn Street due to open in 2024.