AN ALRESFORD woman who has shone a light on life-saving stem cell transplants after being diagnosed with leukaemia has been celebrated for her work.

Joanna Calder was honoured by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan at an awards ceremony held at the Tower of London on Thursday last week.

She took home the Patient Champion of the Year Award at the Anthony Nolan Supporter Awards 2019, after her life was saved by the charity.

Joanna’s award was presented in recognition of her passionate advocacy of post-transplant care, knowing first-hand what the effects of living with leukaemia and receiving a life-saving stem cell transplant can be.

“When you are struggling to stay alive, your physical needs become the focus,” Joanna explained. “But after transplant, when you have been removed from your dear ones for so long, living in isolation, you are grateful to be alive but can feel very alone. I believe passionately that there needs to be more emotional support for patients and families, and I hoped I could make a difference.

“Doing this work has given me a sense of worth and self-belief. Leukaemia can take your identity; I could no longer work as a nurse and felt incredibly vulnerable. I now feel a sense of purpose, can help others and have a voice.”

And Joanna has been the face of several of the charity’s campaigns over the last year, most recently being photographed by world famous photographer Rankin, for the organisation’s ‘Silent Thank You’ campaign.

She is also a vital member of Anthony Nolan’s Patients and Families panel, helping to provide information for people before, during and after a stem cell transplant, along sitting on the Post-transplant Care Expert Steering Group, using her own experience to champion patient needs.

On winning the award, Joanna said: “I am humbled and speechless. It has been a genuine privilege to be involved with Anthony Nolan, with such a fun, happy, dedicated and uplifting group of people.”

Joanna is relaunching her career as a nurse in January and is encouraging others to join Anthony Nolan’s stem cell register.

“You’re a potential life-saver. So step up and do it!”

Henny Braund, chief executive at Anthony Nolan, said: “Joanna is a hugely deserving winner of this award; her incredible support and passion for our work is a fantastic example of our charity, which is built on making lifesaving connections. It was lovely to meet Joanna and I continue to find myself inspired and humbled by the dedication and strength of supporters like her.