Walk with us in Anna’s memory…

As most of you know, it has (somehow!) almost been a year since we lost our girl. And we wanted to mark the day by inviting you all to join us on the afternoon of Saturday 16th September 2017 to walk the Great Aycliffe Way in Anna's memory.

Anna touched the lives of so many people, so even if your connection with her was purely through her blog, we invite you to join us.

Fundraising, though still as vital as always, is optional on this day and is secondary to our goal, which is simply to walk on and remember Anna with love and laughter, in exactly the way she would've wanted. If you wish to join us, and we genuinely welcome everyone, young and old and anywhere in between, all we ask is this:

  1. Get in touch to let us know you'll be there to walk with us. (Contact us through the Inside My Head fb page, or via email to Victoria@loxoflove.co.uk) This is to help us gain an idea of numbers and to let us know to wait for you before we start! Don't want anyone running behind us to catch up (or getting lost!)
  2. Wear something bright and cheery on the day! And literally anything goes! Anna always embraced fun and individuality so, while we ask, for your own comfort and safety, that you remember sensible shoes (some boots aren't made for walking!), you can pretty much wear whatever you see fit to mark the day.
  3. Meet us on the car park of the Cobblers Hall pub, Newton Aycliffe from 1.30pm and we will begin our walk at 2pm. Our walk is approximately 5 miles (gentle terrain so no need to panic!) and not intended to be challenging in any way. We estimate a maximum of 2 hours to complete our walk and we finish where we started, at the pub!
  4. We invite you all to join us afterwards at the Cobblers Hall pub for drinks. So even if you are unable to join us for our walk, you are welcome to raise a glass with us afterwards.
  5. Bring your children, bring your dog, bring banners, balloons or just yourself.. We simply walk on for Anna.
  6. And lastly, if you would like to make a donation or raise sponsorship for the event, we ask that all donations are made either directly to Anna's Justgiving page (which currently sits at a whopping £117k!) or in cash on the day and we will add it to her total on your behalf. Remember ALL donations go to Brain Tumour Research Campaign.

So it is really that simple… We invite you all to help us make, what will always be, an incredibly difficult day for Anna's family and friends, into a day full of love and laughter so that we all remember our beautiful and brave girl just the way she would've wanted.

And if Anna is with us on the day, here's hoping she remembers to order sunshine!

Hope to see you all there! I'll be the one pulling Enid out if some insanely muddy puddle somewhere – she always manages to find one wherever we walk! No wonder she and Anna had such a bond! Have a little peak at this video I found from Summer 2016. It sums up everything about Anna.. Full of life, full of fun and totally on the same wavelength as her crazy springer spaniel!

Victoria xx

If you have any questions about the day, contact us via Facebook or email (victoria@loxoflove.co.uk).

If you are unable to join us and wish to make a donation to Brain Tumour Research Campaign in memory of Anna, you can do so here.

Post 34: When I’m gone…

I got my ticket for the long way round, two bottles of whiskey for the way… And I sure would like some sweet company, and I’m leaving tomorrow what do you say..?

When I’m gone, when I’m gone… You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone… You’re gonna miss me by my hair, you’re gonna miss me everywhere… You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone…”

The Cup Song, Performed by Anna Kendrick in the film Pitch Perfect… I’ve played this song endlessly for about a year now, in what I thought was preparation for last Friday, 23rd September 201 My baby sister’s funeral.  She always said she wanted this song played at her funeral. Most of us have that one song that we say we’d like played when we go.  This was her song.  I wasn’t prepared…

Anna Louise Swabey  25.07.1991 – 16.09.2016

I wanted to update Anna’s blog following her death on Friday, 16th September 2016 (eleven whole days ago), to continue her journey mostly, but also for us as a family to be able to look back at this and remember the small details that we are likely to forget amongst the blur that has been our lives for the past few weeks.

Anna passed away peacefully at around 4.30am, with our mum and dad by her side.  I last sat with her that night until about 2.30am, sharing the time with our brother, Matt, Anna’s fiancé, Andy, and my partner, Lee, having railroaded mum and dad into getting some very much needed sleep.  We had all been holed up in Anna and Andy’s house for almost two weeks by this point, sharing as much time as we possibly could with her; some lucid, mostly not, but all precious nonetheless.  Despite the impending loss, heartbreak and sadness we were all feeling, we did manage to enjoy our time with Anna and with each other, having not been in the same space together for that length of time since we were kids!

There was a thunder storm on the morning that Anna died.  It continued for hours…  We were waiting to see who was going to be the first to say she went out with a bang!  I still can’t remember which one of us was the first to make the joke (had Anna been there it would’ve been her without a shadow of a doubt!) but we said it anyway, as she knew we would. We took it in turns to sit with her for a few hours before she was taken to the chapel of rest. It was such a peaceful time and, again, something we are very grateful for.

It may seem strange to read but I know I can speak for my family when I say we were lucky to have had the time we did with Anna, and that her tumour progressed in such a way that meant we didn’t lose her sooner than we had to.  Even during her final weeks, Anna was still her usual blunt, funny self.  Brain tumours affect people in so many ways and had her tumour progressed differently or her surgeries not been as successful as they were, the side effects for Anna and for us could have been so very different.  What we all had however, was precious time together where Anna’s strength, bravery and dry wit kept us all going and inspired us to be as strong, brave and equally dry about it all.  It is what it is, as both Anna and I would frequently say.. I think it’s now our family motto!

Anna and Andy were due to marry the day after Anna passed away.  We knew a couple of weeks before, that Anna wouldn’t be well enough for their wedding to go ahead, and we had to make the very tough decision to cancel the wedding plans.  However, we all made a promise to Anna some time ago, that if the wedding didn’t go ahead, we would all go and spend the weekend at the wedding venue in Richmond regardless.  It was such a difficult weekend but a very lovely one also.. We spent time together in the glorious sunshine, had a family meal and sat round the fire sharing memories.  My youngest son Theo pointed at the brightest star and said that it was Anna shining down on us. We all like to think it was.

Anna’s funeral was held at Wear Valley Crematorium on what was to be yet another beautiful day.  Her coffin was white, and her flowers were red, white and green to reflect her beloved Leicester Tigers! Simple, elegant and very Anna… We were amazed at how many people came to pay their respects to our beautiful girl; the room was packed with family and friends from every part of her life.

Andy carried Anna’s coffin, alongside Matt and 3 of our cousins, Ian, James and Johnathan.  We are a very large and very close family, and while we know they were very honoured to be asked, we knew it would be Anna’s choice also.  We chose a humanist minister, Roger McAdam, for the service, who genuinely captured the essence of Anna.  We wanted the service to be a celebration of Anna’s life, and at her request we all wore bright colours.  I read a poem called Sometimes by Frank Brown, her bridesmaids and bridesman shared some beautiful and funny anecdotes, and Anna’s dad, Keith, ended with a moving and uplifting eulogy.  In amongst this were some of Anna’s favourite and most meaningful songs, including Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple (Leicester Tigers opening song), The Cup Song from Pitch Perfect (our favourite film!), The One by Kodaline (Anna and Andy’s first dance at their wedding), Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison (this was Anna and her dad’s song),  Ho Hey by Lennon and Maisy (one of Anna’s favourite songs and to be played at her wedding to Andy), and Klingande (Instrumental version) by Jubel (this was played at the Cinderella Charity Ball organised by Anna in May 2015).  Anna and I are very similar in so many ways.. Practical being one of them.. Hence our family choice not to have flowers at the funeral, but instead to request donations to both Brain Tumour Research Campaign and Marie Curie, raising a total in excess of £1200 on the day.

After the service we moved on to Woodham Golf Club in Newton Aycliffe to continue our celebration of Anna’s life, where her nephew, Theo, took a leaf out of Anna’s book and sold BTRC wristbands to the guests.  He is 8 years old and raised £173 in 2 hours! Anna would be so proud.  We asked guests to bring a photograph for our memory board, and to write a few words for our memory tree because we wanted to capture everyone’s own memories of Anna that we can look back on and remind ourselves of how full her life was in just 25 years. Anna’s attitude was to make the most of the time she had rather than dwell on the time she didn’t and we want to always remind ourselves of that.

We are completely humbled by what an impact Anna has had, not only on her family and friends, but on the people she has met in passing, those she knew at different points in her life and even those she simply spoke to through writing her blog.  In just 25 short years Anna has made a difference.  Not only has she shared a very full and happy life with her precious family and friends, but in just 20 months she has reached her fundraising target of £100,000, she has raised awareness of a terribly under-researched, under-funded, but all too common, disease, and has inspired, not only a nation, but people across the world by her bravery, determination and positivity.  What a legacy to leave behind!

With much love and sincere gratitude to everyone who has supported Anna and our family from a very humbled sister,

Victoria xx

For anyone wishing to donate towards Anna’s running total for Brain Tumour Research Campaign you can do so via her Justgiving page.14439030_10153719461947331_573556118_o

POST 30: SUPER SARAH!

Now I know I have just posted about the Paris Marathon Mission, however, I truly felt as though this woman deserved a whole post of her own. I simply have to tell you about Sarah Hargreaves…

My Mum used to work with Sarah at York College, a fair few years ago now, but I had never had the pleasure of meeting her myself.

I first came across Sarah shortly after my diagnosis. She contacted me asking if she could run the London Marathon 2015 in aid of BTRC; I, of course, snapped her hand off, and was left dumbfounded how someone who I hadn’t even met would want to do something so kind. I quickly learnt of Sarah’s generous, caring and loving character. In her own words:

I know some amazing people who are brilliant runners.  Some can run a marathon in less than 3 hours; some can run three marathons in three days; some can do an ironman.  Me….well, I’m just a bit of an old bird who happens to like running.  It doesn’t come easy to me.  I have to work very, very hard at it.

When I was at school, I hated cross country but was OK at athletics…but then I discovered smoking, drinking and boys (not necessarily in that order) and any chance of taking up running was long gone.

It took a few more years for me to take it up….and, at the age of 42, I finally kicked the habit (smoking, not men) and was challenged to do the Great North Run by some workmates and raise money for Cancer Research at the same time.

I stopped smoking and started running the same day.

It was a truly awful day.

I managed around half a mile, running behind my friends, calling them as many bad names as I could think of.  When I stopped I was purple.  I felt wretched…but I stuck at it.  I built up my mileage gradually and, a few months later I completed the Great North Run in 2:10 in memory of my brother Simon, who died of cancer in 1999. I was very, very proud.

I came to absolutely love running and from there, built up my mileage to do marathons, of which I’ve now done seven (I think).  It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s bloody hard work.  I have to train hard; very hard.  But I love doing them and continue to fundraise in memory of my lovely brother.

Then, one day last year, when I was at work, I heard about some people fundraising for the Brain Tumour Research Campaign for a woman called Anna…the daughter of a friend, Linda Swabey, who worked at York College a few years before.  I found out that Anna, at the age of 23, had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour and, for whatever reason, her story just grabbed me.  It grabbed me so much that I found out more about her charity…and discovered that brain tumours are the biggest cancer killers of people under the age of 40, but receive less than 1% of cancer research spending in the UK. So I decided that I wanted to do my bit to raise more funds for the BTRC and their amazing work in trying to combat this terrible killer.”

 

So yes, this amazing woman contacted me and ran the London Marathon in aid of BTRC after hearing of my story; how kind! Not only that, but she raised a hell of a lot of money in the process also.

Sarah London

We kept in touch and Mum and I kept saying how we would love to head down to York and visit her and many other of my Mum’s former colleagues, however, operations, radiotherapy and chemotherapy seemed to take over our lives.

I was then very cheeky and contacted Sarah about running the Paris Marathon with me, and explained how I was keen to get a whole team together, and she jumped at the chance! Still never having met this lady, I, again was left shocked and very humbled.

This is where I began to learn that Sarah is not just caring, generous and loving, SHE IS AN ABSOLUTE NUTTER!

She contacted me to tell me that she knew she could run a marathon, and really wanted to challenge herself. Her crazy plans then began to fall into place:

April 3rd – Run the Paris Marathon

April 4th – Hop on a bike and begin the 277 mile cycle to Rotterdam

April 10th – Run the Rotterdam Marathon

 

As Sarah has called it “Two marathons and a bit of a bike ride” , or, alternatively, “ 3 Countries, 2 Marathons, 1 Old Bird”!!!!

I couldn’t believe what she was proposing! All I knew is that when I met her, I was going to give her the biggest hug humanly possible! I couldn’t wait!

When that moment came emotion consumed me, I had tears in my eyes and felt so happy to finally meet and talk in person. I don’t think any member of the team could quite get our heads around the challenge that lay ahead of Sarah and we were all in awe of her commitment to fundraising, in memory of Simon (pictured below), and for me and BTRC.

Simon

 

Paris Marathon completed in a very respectable time of 4hours 50mins, we met afterwards to celebrate the first success of her long journey. We hugged/cried goodbye and we all wished her well for her remaining two legs of her challenge. The morning after running 26.2 miles, Sarah, joined by her brother Andy, hopped on their bikes, and the support car driven by husband Chris. They casually cycled 70 miles!!!!!!

They arrived in Rotterdam on Friday, after having cycled nearer to 300 miles. This gave Sarah only one full day of rest before the final leg of her challenge!

We have all been following her progress intently on social media, and we were all hoping she would be able to complete the Rotterdam Marathon on Sunday and, more importantly, finish unscathed.

I was over the moon when I received a call from her telling me that SHE DID IT!! And, not only that, she only went and bloomin’ ran the Rotterdam Marathon 30 minutes faster than Paris! 4 hours 21 minutes!

Sarah Rotterdam Marathon

CHALLENGE COMPLETE!

Sarah has raised an absolutely UNBELIEVABLE amount of money for BTRC, and the total is still rising. Her total so far is:

£4,605.80

If you do feel so inclined, Sarah’s fundraising hasn’t stopped yet and it would be so amazing if we could see her personal target hit that £5,000 mark! Her Just Giving page can be found here.

Sarah two medals

 

Additionally, if any of you live in the York area, Sarah is hosting a night of fundraising for varying cancer charities, including BTRC. This event is taking place on Saturday 16th April commencing at 8pm, The Basement, City Screen, York. It is a night of live music and Sarah asks you to join her in celebrating her marathon successes and to raise even more money! Sounds like fun to me, get your dancing shoes on! Tickets can be purchased from the City Screen Box Office –http://www.thebasementyork.co.uk/#!boxsmash/ck1p

Sarah Charity Event.jpg

 

All that is left to be said, is a HUGEEEEE congratulations to Sarah! We are all so proud of you and your achievements! And I am sure Simon is looking down on you filled with even more pride! Cannot wait to see you soon – lunch will definitely be on me!!

POST 29: ALLEZ, ALLEZ ANNA’S ARMY!!!

12 runners + 32 supporters + 1 city + 1 marathon + 1 charity = ONE AMAZING WEEKEND!

I simply have to fill you all in on our trip to Paris. Well, to be totally frank, it was more than just a trip, it was a mission! 12 incredibly brave (crazy!) people, some of whom I hadn’t even had the pleasure of meeting, some I hadn’t seen in years, chose to run the Paris Marathon in aid of Brain Tumour Research Campaign. Not only did I have the absolute joy and pleasure of the company of these 12 people, but along with them came the support of 32 others!

This marathon mission, as you may have noticed, had been in the planning for a long time. I had initially intended to run it myself, but my poor health and lack of energy, unfortunately, soon put an end to that idea. I immersed myself in rallying the ‘troops’ and made sure I had a loud enough voice and a big enough banner to try and help the remaining runners around the gruelling 26.2 miles course.

my banner

I can admit this now, but as the marathon was approaching, I knew I made the right decision about pulling out. I was fully able to embrace all the excitement being reunited with friends and meeting new ones too, without the worry of whether I would actually be able to make it across that finish line without landing myself in a French hospital!

Thursday 31st March, Andy and I boarded our plane to Paris Charles De Gaulle. This in itself caused many a happy memory to come rushing back to me of my university year abroaduni days spent in the city! I felt like Anna of old being reunited with my friends from uni, and was so touched that so many people had made the effort to travel to this beautiful city to support the runners, myself and the amazing cause.

Before we left for Paris, runners were asked for suggestions for slogans to put on banners to encourage them during the marathon. I just wanted to clarify this so nobody reading this blog, or looking at the photos from the weekend think that I am some kind of dictator with her own ‘army’, or starting some kind of cult for that matter!!!! Their response was, “ALLEZ, ALLEZ ANNA’S ARMY!!”; and that was that! Thanks to Steve and those at Office Team a fantastic banner was designed (bar the photo of me! HAHA!) and was held high for all the runners to see!

IMG_5410 (1)

 

Ellie and her amazing family support had her own banner, “GO ELLIE!” and boy, did she go! Banners, BTRC t-shirts and jumpers on, it just was missing one thing….the runners HAD to be wearing something special, right?!

Here is where my amazing friends at the Rotary Club of Newton Aycliffe came to our rescue! I was invited to speak to the club back in September 2015, since then the Club has been nothing but overwhelmingly supportive of not only my cause, but of me personally. They made a generous donation to my fundraising mission, made me an Honorary Member (and the youngest!) of their Club, nominated me for a Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Young Citizen of the Year Award (which I went on to win!), and have constantly been there for me as friends. I thought I was pushing my luck and maybe being a bit cheeky when I sent an email around asking if any of the members might know of anyone/ any company that might be able to help make my teams’ running vests, however, yet again, the Club surpassed all my expectations and overwhelmingly told me that they would arrange and sponsor the vests for me! I sent them across the agreed design and that was that; these wonderful team vests were produced!

I really would like to take this opportunity to thank all at the Club for their continued support. I can tell you something, all 12 runners looked amazing in the vests and it made it much easier for the supporters to spot them in the crowds. Thank you doesn’t seem enough, but I really am so grateful, and I know the runners were too! I look forward to coming to see you all very soon to tell you all of this in person!

The night before the marathon approached and we all met up to dish out these vests, to dish out words of encouragements, and most importantly of all, to dish out food!!! It was such an amazing feeling knowing that all these people were here to run for me and BTRC. It was lovely to see everybody mingling and getting to know one another; it was simply great fun! Everyone was conscious of the early start that awaited everyone in the morning, and the teeny weeny matter of the little jog 12 people were attempting to complete as well! With that in mind, we went our separate ways and hit the hay! Goodness knows how the runners felt, I felt sick with nerves for them and was just hoping that each one of them completed the run without any injuries; my conscience was playing havoc with me!

*********

‘M Day’ arrived and we all met on the Champs Elysées ready for team photos. Amongst all of the tens of thousands of people this was hard to organise as you can imagine. Unfortunately, Tas and Lola didn’t make the photo call, but here is a selection for you to see.

 

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The majority of us supporters then made our way to La Place de la Bastille, here we could cheer the runners on at mile 3 and then they would loop on the other side at mile 14. Banners held high and voices ready we saw the runners one by one pass each point. Although, we only managed to see Andy Davis at mile 14 as this superman was in the earlier start group. I couldn’t believe how easy they were all making it look, or, at least, I couldn’t believe what great actors/actresses they were!

Mile 14 was tough for some, and emotions were rife, but once we had seen the last of the 12 pass that mark, we headed for a spot near the finish. Supporters were able to bask in the glorious sunshine that shone over Paris that day, whether these were the perfect conditions for our runners however was a different question!

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Some other groups of supporters dotted themselves around the course which was great as the runners were able to spot the banners, see the colours and hear the support all the way through.

We camped out just past the 26 mile marker. The end was in sight, they were almost there, they had almost run a marathon! As the Paris Marathon didn’t seem so strict as others I had watched previously, we were actually able to get the other side of the barriers; every time a member of ‘Anna’s Army’ headed towards us we were able to run along with them, some supporters even grabbing their hands and crossing the finish line together! The atmosphere was electric; emotions were still rife. I could not have been prouder of every single one of the team. The physical and mental strength that day must have taken…hats off, or in my case let’s say “WIGS OFF” to you guys!

(Speaking of ‘wigs off’, please keep an eye out in the video at the end of this post that includes photos of the men all trying on my wig – including the French barman!)

 

I am delighted to say that all 12 crossed that finish line, some more battered than others. They all can say they completed the Paris Marathon 2016, and can wear their medal with pride!

Celebrations soon kicked into full swing and to a bar we headed! Never has a drink been more deserved for the 12 runners, or more needed for all the supporters who had been shouting at the top of their lungs all day! I looked around our huge group and felt so emotional and so honoured to know such amazingly selfless people, who would put their bodies on the line and take time out of their lives to support me and this cause.

post marathon celebrations

I cannot thank each and every one of you enough, including every single supporter. You have all given me so many great memories that I will cherish, and made me appreciate, even more, the life that I am lucky enough to lead at this moment in time.

Another particular thank you I must make in particular is to Andy Davis for taking the reins and being the mastermind behind this marathon mission. None of this would have happened without you, Andy, and, I know I say it a lot, but your support, and the support of your entire family, throughout these 15 months still leaves me in awe. I love you all very much.

Davis Family

A final thank you HAS to go to every single person who donated to any of the Just Giving Pages or Sponsorship forms of my runners. Without you this weekend would have been for nothing. Instead, I am MORE than delighted to announce, that, to date (Just Giving pages are still open…) this Paris Marathon Mission alone, has raised a WHOPPING….

£16,961.66

…which sounds a lot like £17,000 to me!

The difference this money will make to BTRC is so exciting.

 

I am now calling my team ‘ANNA’S ANGELS’ – YOU ARE ALL INCREDIBLE

Andy, Bex, Sam, Edd, Nick, Sarah, Ellie, Polly, Kayleigh, Tessa, Lola and Tas, please take a bow!

 

Now, please take me back to Paris, I have been on a wedding dress diet since my return and really could do with some more crepes, croissants, pain au chocolats……..

 

I will leave you with this video that left me in floods of tears the other night, Andy Davis is proving to be a dab hand at these now:

 

 

 

 

POST 19: LIFE WITH A BRAIN TUMOUR PART II

 

To wrap up 2015, and the mad year I have had, I want to briefly replicate the first post I wrote at the beginning of last year (where did that time go?!). I want to give you an insight into the updated version; who I was, who I am, who I will be.

Anna Swabey

Who I was:

  • I was a 23 year old girl, dealt the worst of hands; told that I had roughly 3 years to live.post op
  • I didn’t know where to turn, what to say, what to do.
  • I had no idea why cancer had chosen me; a young, fit, healthy girl?!
  • I was heartbroken – not set to ever marry or have children; not set to live my dreams.
  • I was trying to hold it all together for my family.
  • I was determined to live; I had to fight.
  • I had two brain operations.Mask 1
  • I was sick, exhausted, and experiencing gruelling treatment.
  • I needed a focus; I had to help others, and I needed to fundraise in order to help find more treatments and, ultimately, a cure.

 

Who I am now:

  • I am Anna Swabey, a 24 year old woman, campaigning to obtain more funding for brain tumour research.
  • I am engaged to be married to my dream man; a mummy to a gorgeous puppy.
  • Together, since March, we have raised almost £37,000 for Brain Tumour Research Campaign.
  • I have attended the Houses of Parliament to share my experiences with the Petitions Committee.
  • I have met and spoken to the most incredibly inspiring young people, experiencing a similar, if not identical, illness.
  • I am still undergoing chemotherapy treatment; still determined to fight Trev.
  • I am training to run the Paris marathon.
  • I am in awe that I have over 86,000 views of my blog!

 

Who I want to be:

  • I want to be alive for many more years to come.
  • I want to be a wife.
  • I want to raise £100,000 for BTRC.
  • I want to continue to share my journey, in the hope of making a difference to people and families who are yet to be dealt the blow we have.
  • I want to remain tough and keep fighting.
  • I want to complete the Paris Marathon.
  • I want to keep positive, keep smiling, and keep being ME (i.e. a bit of a nutter 😛 ) !

 

I am determined that 2016 will be a good year for my entire family and I. I can’t wait to see what this year holds for my new little family unit; Anna, Andrew and Enid. I can’t wait to see, with your help, how much of a difference we can make to brain tumour research and to patients lives, just like mine.

I thank you all for supporting me throughout 2015, and I hope you continue to follow my progress and campaigning in 2016.

Finally, I wish you all….

A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!