Josh Komen, giving back

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 middle distance runners – is the first-ever ambassador for the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust, a charity which runs Ranui House in Christchurch. Ranui House, celebrating its 30th birthday, is a home away from home for patients and their families who need to travel for life-saving medical treatment.

Josh’s decision to take on the new role is deeply personal for him. 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 dreams of representing New Zealand at the next Commonwealth Games.

That was until he woke up one morning up 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 Ranui 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 versus 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 Ranui 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 Sibille, and seven-month-old daughter Maja. He says being asked to be an ambassador for the House 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 Ranui House, a place that’s helped me so much on my journey,” says Josh.

About Ranui House
Ranui House, located opposite Christchurch Hospital, first opened with six apartments in 1993, growing over the last 30 years to the 26 apartments it provides today.
Owned and managed by the Bone Marrow Cancer Trust, Ranui is a home away from home for those who need it. In the year to December 2022, stays at Ranui House were for haematology (31%), oncology (15%), cardiology (7%), general surgery (12%), and nephrology (9%), with the remainder covering gastro, ENT, ICU, orthopaedic, NICU, vascular and respiratory.

One third of the families are from Canterbury, with almost a quarter from Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough, 23 percent from the West Coast, 15 percent from Otago/Southland, and the remainder from the North Island, or the Chatham Islands.
The Trust also funds life-saving and world-class cancer research through its annual grants programme via the Bone Marrow Cancer Research Trust.

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