From one of NZ’s fastest men, to one of the sickest

When Josh Komen gets asked how he is his eyes light up and his smile triples in size.

“I’m thriving… because I should be dead, I should be dead more than once and here I am enjoying life.”

Josh was just 23 when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2011.  Young, fit and healthy – or so he thought – Josh had dreams of representing New Zealand at the next Commonwealth Games.  It wasn’t until he woke up one morning up feeling dizzy and dazed, with a swollen eye, that he sought medical attention 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.”

Josh and his family were offered accommodation at Rānui House, located opposite Christchurch Hospital and Hagley Park. It quickly became a “home away from home”, says Josh.

Having my mum and sister close by was everything. The chemo and transplant were destroying me, but my family and friends were lifting me up through that.”

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, treatment overseas in Australia for 5 years, all while experiencing multiple heart attacks.

During that time, Josh and his family spent a total of 474 nights at Rānui House. Staff quickly became friends, then family.

“I remember feeling so grateful for a bed with warm, soft blankets where I could sleep in peace with no monitors, and no disruptions. The staff were amazing – Rānui was everything I needed at that point in my journey.”

Now, after more than a decade since his diagnosis, Josh has become an Ambassador for Bone Marrow Cancer Trust, advocating for Rānui House so that it can continue to help families in need.

He says being asked to be an ambassador for the trust was a “huge honour”.  “I couldn’t be more proud to give back to a facility that’s helped me so much on my journey.”

Josh is now cancer-free and enjoys life in Greymouth with his wife and 7-month-old daughter. He appreciates all the “little things in life”, grateful for every day he gets to spend with friends and family.