THE opportunity to reflect on being told you have just two months to live three years down the road is not something many people can say.

A diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia – a cancer of the white blood cells – can so often lead to the worst possible outcome.

For Joanna Calder, who lives in Lower Wield north of Alresford, the situation was looking particularly bleak in 2015.

The mother-of-two had already battled the condition once following an initial diagnosis the previous year. She had been told she had just a 35 per cent chance of survival the first time around but went through isolation and bouts of chemotherapy.

However, on its return, the cancer was much more intense.

Joanna went in to hospital to prepare for stem cell treatment but she admitted she had “no hope” they would find a donor.

“None of my three siblings were matches, which is often a better chance of finding a match,” she told the Chronicle.

“I thought I had four possible matches but none of them ended up being any help to me.

“I spent the next six months preparing for stem cell treatment and was in hospital for weeks and at this stage I really was not well.

“Without a stem cell transplant I had two months to live.”

The outlook for Joanna, now aged 50, was not looking promising.

With time not on her side, she started to set her mind on matters most people her age would never consider.

“It was important for me to be able to prepare for my death,” said Joanna. “I began a what if file, my end of life file.

“I wanted the children to have some kind of control and ownership of the situation. I sat down and made a video of myself speaking to them so I could leave them something to always have.

“My daughter wanted to have birthday cards written until the age of 18 and my son wanted me to sing his children’s lullabies.”

The options had all but ran out until Thursday, March 3, 2016 – a date she will never forget.

Anthony Nolan had found a nine out of 10 match with a 44-year-old British man, who to this day remains anonymous to Joanna.

“It has just been three years since I had the transplant,” she added. “I know I am in a privileged position – most people do not get that chance.

“I think he is the most incredible person. I owe him everything.”

Since her transplant, Joanna recently celebrated her 50th birthday – something she had given up hope of at one stage – and she has been able to enjoy family holidays with husband James, son Toby, 20, and Alice, 18.

Now she is encouraging others to potentially save someone’s life by joining the stem cell donor register with Anthony Nolan.

“All it takes to register is looking at a website and filling in a form to see if you meet the criteria,” said Joanna.

“The chance of saving someone’s life is such a gift to have. It is a gift that would almost certainly change your life and not just theirs.”

More than 2,000 people a year in the UK need a stem cell transplant and Anthony Nolan is the leading charity that finds matching donors for people with blood cancer – and gives them a second chance of life.

Joanna, who previously worked as a practice nurse, has relaunched her career with the aim of trying to support families going through a similar experience to her.

“There is a strong message having gone through all of this,” she said. “There is very little help for anyone battling through this from an emotional side and even less help for teenage children.

“I am making a return to nursing. I would like to take some sort of role helping people going through what I did.”

“When you are very sick if you think your relatives are supported then you feel supported.”

The telling of Joanna's story is part of Anthony Nolan's 'The Silent Thank You’ campaign, which shows the power and the limitations of saying ‘thank you’ in a new series of films shot by world-renowned, portrait photographer, Rankin.

His work captures the visible struggle as people who have received a life-saving stem cell transplant try to find the words to say ‘thank you’ to their donors, known or anonymous. 

To find out more about how to support Anthony Nolan, and view the Silent Thank You films and image gallery visit or search #SilentThankYou.