Marham woman nominated for charity award to recognise decades of dedication
A Marham woman has created a lifesaving legacy in her son’s memory by raising more than £100,000 for a blood cancer charity.
Janet Qualters’ hard work in honour of her son Daniel, who died 30 years ago aged just two, has now been recognised on a national scale as this week she has received news that she has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.
Janet, 66, is one of the contenders to receive the Shirley Nolan award for special recognition at the Anthony Nolan Supporter Awards, which are being held at the Tower of London next month.
She is being recognised for her support of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, which she has backed since her son Daniel was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in 1987.
His diagnosis came after Janet became concerned with spots that had developed all over his body.
After repeatedly being turned away from the doctors, and dismissed as a “neurotic mother”, Janet went to her local hospital and refused to leave until Daniel was assessed by a doctor.
That same evening, after doctors agreed to do blood tests, Daniel was taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Janet said: “Doctors told me it was the worst case of AML they had ever seen and gave Daniel just one week to live as there was only a five per cent chance that any treatment would work.
“Even the people in hospital agreed, Daniel was like an angel. He was too good for this world.
“Even when he was in hospital poorly, he was always looking out for the other children.”
Daniel underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, two courses of radiotherapy, and had a stem cell transplant.
Due to there being no suitable match for Daniel on the stem cell register at the time, he had a transplant from his own bone marrow, an autologous transplant, in the hope that it would kickstart his immune system to fight infection and disease.
Janet said: “You have no idea what it’s like knowing your little boy is going to die and there’s someone out there who can help, but you can’t find them. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
“I chose to support Anthony Nolan because I didn’t want anyone to have to go through what Daniel went through – and what I went through as a mother.”
Daniel died on August 25, 1988, just 10 months after he was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Janet said: “When Daniel died, I didn’t cope with it at all well and I became quite ill. It took me a few years but I bounced back.
“I found that helping raise awareness and funds and recruiting potential stem cell donors actually helped me recover and I felt that I was doing it not only for Daniel, but through Daniel.
“If it had not been for Daniel I would not have achieved what I have.”
Janet set herself the ambitious target of raising £100,000 for Anthony Nolan, and did everything she could to raise awareness and recruit people to the stem cell register.
Other family members also got involved and Daniel’s brother, Chris, who is now 26, joined the register as soon as he was old enough.
When Janet moved to Marham, in 2003, she began working for the RAF, progressing to a role as PA to the Officer Commanding Tactical Imagery-Intelligence Wing.
Janet, now a funeral civil celebrant, spent her years at RAF Marham tirelessly fundraising – organising everything from skydives, cycles and runs, to raffles, cake sales and a 1940s-themed ball.
She was also responsible for organising numerous donor recruitment events at RAF bases – recruiting over 1,000 people to the stem cell register.
Janet said she is proud of what she has been able to achieve on behalf of Anthony Nolan.
Janet added: “I will never give up raising awareness in any way I can. It can be a bit like banging your head against a brick wall, but I’ll never give up. Ever.”
Henny Braund, chief executive at Anthony Nolan, said: “What Janet has achieved in the 30 years since Daniel’s death is nothing short of remarkable.
“Every pound raised, and person recruited to the Anthony Nolan register, has created a lifesaving legacy in Daniel’s name that will continue to save the lives of people in desperate need for many years to come.
“We’re very much looking forward to celebrating Janet’s accomplishments next month at the Tower of London.”
The Shirley Nolan award Janet is shortlisted for is named after the charity’s founder, a mother whose vision was to create the world’s first bone marrow register to find a match for her son Anthony, and others in need of a lifesaving transplant.
To find out more about Anthony Nolan, or to sign up to the stem cell register, visit www.anthonynolan org.