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Wildlife champion's cancer battle

PUBLISHED: 09:30 05 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:33 30 June 2010

For nearly 15 years he has energetically championed the cause of wildlife conservation as director of Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

However, as Brendan Joyce launched into his latest campaign before Christmas to raise £1m to extend three of the trust's reserves, only those closest to him knew he was already waging his own private battle against liver cancer.

For nearly 15 years he has energetically championed the cause of wildlife conservation as director of Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

However, as Brendan Joyce launched into his latest campaign before Christmas to raise £1m to extend three of the trust's reserves, only those closest to him knew he was already waging his own private battle against liver cancer.

Father-of-three Mr Joyce, 52, of Hellesdon, Norwich, bravely carried on working as normal after the diagnosis was made last June while he waited to be given the chance of a liver transplant.

He only spoke publicly of his condition for the first time yesterday after undergoing the transplant which he described as a “gift of life and one which will enable me to carry on doing what I love best - working for Norfolk's wildlife”.

Before entering Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, he acknow-ledged he was “extremely lucky to be offered a liver transplant”.

The procedure went well and it is expected that he will spend about three months recovering from the operation before taking up the reins again. He said he was confident to be leaving the trust in the capable hands of its management team.

He said: “This is a difficult time, not just for me but for my family, friends and all my colleagues at the trust. It has made me realise how important organ donation is in saving lives and how amazing it is that people become donors.

“There is obviously a growing problem in terms of the number of people like me who need this life- saving gift. If I can do one thing, it is to encourage everyone to consider being a donor.”

Mr Joyce told his staff that he was looking forward to getting back to the job as soon as he was able - but he hoped he would come back to find the trust had raised its appeal target.

Chairman of Norfolk Wildlife Trust Tim Cawkwell said: “We all wish Brendan the best for a speedy recovery. I have full confidence in the arrangements he has put in place and the trust will fire on all cylinders while he is away.

“Brendan's contribution to the trust has been huge over the last 15 years and we very much look forward to his return to take up the reins again.”

Its latest appeal is to buy farmland at Hilgay near Downham Market, a site in the Bure Valley between Upton Marshes and Ranworth Broad and 20 acres adjoining Grimston Warren.

Mr Joyce said: “So far, we have raised more than £80,000 through donations from our members and the public.

“This is a very encouraging start, but we have a long way to go and so we want to give the appeal a very big push over the next few weeks.

“We really need people to support us in whatever way they can. These land purchases are critical to expanding our existing nature reserves and helping wildlife to survive the effects of climate change. But we will not be able to go ahead if we do not raise significant funds.”

To join the organ donor register, visit www.uktransplant.org.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.

To find out more about the land purchase appeal, visit www.norfolk wildlifetrust.org.uk/appeal

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