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.

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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 32: VLOG 2

Catch up with what has been going on in my life by listening to my ramblings here!

Please also find a small selection (carefully selected, may I add) of photos from my hen weekend 😀

 

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 27: EAT YOUR HEART OUT GABBY LOGAN!

 

Let me cast your mind back to POST 15 where I shared my Bucket List with you all. I listed one of my aims:

Have a taste of my dream job as Rugby pitch side reporter/Sports presenter – Linked in with my love of rugby and sport in general, I have always said I want ‘to be the next Gabby Logan’ or the like. I think being able to combine a true passion in your line of work, must be a real joy.”

 

Well, a certain Lewis Moody may have just been aware of this dream…

The Lewis Moody – one of the greatest rugby players, ex England Captain, England and Leicester Tigers LEGEND, rang me to tell me that he and his Foundation had organised a special day for me at the Tigers vs. London Irish match on Sunday 28th February, and that I would be interviewing a player! Whaaaaaaaaat?!

As I have posted on here, I have had the honor of meeting Lewis before, however, as exciting as the content of our conversation was, I was still in shock that my all time favourite player had RANG me!

As the day came ever closer and Lewis sent me more details across regarding what was in store for me at Welford Road, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

I simply had to share this day with you all…

 ********

Andy, my parents, and I (all MAD Tigers fans) met Lewis an hour and a half before kick off. He had sorted us with press passes and we were able to go into the press room and see how a match day pans out for the guys covering the game. I had the pleasure of meeting Bleddyn Jones, rugby commentator for BBC Radio Leicester, whom I listened to a lot when I was at university and couldn’t get to as many games as I would have liked, similarly for away matches. Bleddyn is a Tigers legend himself, making 333 appearances. I tapped into his expertise for my post match interview ;).

We then made our way to the family room where the families and partners convene before and after matches. I had the joy of meeting Geordan Murphy’s wife and their gorgeous baby, Rex – broody much Anna?! ❤

Andy and my parents made their way to our seats in the press box, and Lewis took me down the tunnel and on to the pitch – WOW! I never quite realised how amazing the fortress that is Welford Road looked from down there; especially with the incredible Tigers fans’ cheers resonating, waiting for the team to run out on to the pitch! After some selfiesimage1 (2) in the dug outs, introductions to more Tigers legends, ‘Smoke on the Water’ started blaring through the speakers and the ROAR around the stadium and the clapping began….the lads ran on to the pitch – COME ON TIGERS!!! I have never been so close to the action! AHHHHHHH! 😀

Lewis and I then joined Andy and my parents in the press box. It was great to get a press point of view of the match, and it was great to be sat in the Crumbie stand that always produces the loudest support. Every fan was especially behind the lads on Sunday; after losing the three previous games on the trot, earning a bonus point win against London Irish was crucial to keep us in contention for a top four finish to keep us in the running to become Aviva Premiership Champions.

image1 (3)

I have to admit I was pretty nervous about having to interview a player if they lost…the last thing they would want to do would be to talk to me!

Fortunately, the tries came rolling in! Pheeeeeeeeew!

My brother was absolutely gutted to not be able to join us – Lewis Moody being his all time favourite player too! Having told Lewis this, we sent Matt a selfie and Lewis recorded a video message for him too – my brother’s response “What a ***king LEGEND!”.

 

Lewis selfie

Game over, and a bonus point 47-20 win under our belts, Lewis, Andy and I headed back down to the media room. I was able to watch all the post match interviews with the Directors of Rugby and met our main man Richard Cockerill.

I had told Lewis that my favourite player was a new arrival to the club Telusa Veainu. He joined Tigers following the World Cup where he represented Tonga in all four of their pool matches and evidently caught the eyes of the powers that be at Leicester. Since joining the club he has fast become a fans favourite (certainly mine!), scoring some sensational tries and adding some real class and excitement to our back line.

Telusa then appeared in the press room and was ready for his interview…EEEEEEK! I was nervous now! I felt like an ACTUAL reporter and the lights were bloomin’ bright and hot! I managed to get through my questions, only stumbling slightly under the pressure I had put myself under! Lewis and Andy were taking the micky out of me though as I said I fumbled my words because Telusa was staring straight into my eyes! Andy promptly told me I shouldn’t get all flustered like that, certainly not as a consequence of looking into another guys’ eyes! HAHA! Sorry babe!

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Lewis had kindly bought me a new Tigers shirt to get signed, so we then made our way up to the hospitality/corporate suites to meet some more players, via the changing room 😉 to get some signatures, and have a drink!

 

 I was well and truly in my element!

 

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Leicester Tigers, the players and the coaching team for making this day so special for me – every person I spoke to could not have been nicer or more willing to take some time to have a chat with me. They all took such interest in my life and wished me well for my continuing treatment.

A special mention must go to Telusa for being so lovely to interview and a great laugh! Although he did tell me he doesn’t particularly like being interviewed and that he too was nervous – sorry about that!! 😛

 

Nobody however, deserves more of a thank you than Mr Moody himself. From meeting us all at 1.30pm, up until Andy and I left at around 8pm, Lewis was with us ensuring I had the best day ever. He truly epitomises a sporting legend and is a real role model for up and coming players; he has already proven his worth on the pitch and is deserving of every accolade and trophy he has gained, but my goodness, what a genuinely kind, charismatic, selfless, TOP bloke he is!! I seriously cannot begin to describe how good of a day Sunday was, and that is all down to him. The mere fact he decided to set up The Lewis Moody Foundation alongside his wife, Annie, in the first instance shows what type of guy he is – but seriously Lewis, I cannot express how grateful I am to yourself and your charity for these memories that I will now cherish. Being an avid fan from the age of 8, this day you arranged for me– just wow! I have made it more than clear that I am more than willing to do anything I can do to help with his Foundation and I would love to do some fundraising together in the future.

Me and Lewis

Now roll on another HUGE win at home to Exeter this coming Sunday!

My ROAR will be louder than ever – TIIIIIIIGGGGEEERRRRRSSSSSS!

POST 22: SUPPORT FROM SENEGAL

As I have told you before, I studied Languages and European Studies at the University of Portsmouth; I majored in French. During my studies at uni I had a conversational tutor called Aba/ M.Bodian. I always struggled with my spoken French, well, I least preferred it out of all my other language disciplines, so I always saw myself as a bit of a poor student in his class!

To my surprise, Aba, who originates from Senegal, contacted me with well wishes after he came across my blog. It was lovely to hear from him last year just after I was diagnosed, and it certainly brought back some fond memories of uni days!

Even lovelier, was the message I received from him last month. He informed me he was now teaching GCSE level students in Senegal and wrote to seek my approval to share my story with his class. I felt extremely honoured and of course I approved!

A few days later I received a document containing messages of support from his GCSE students in this class. As I sat reading all of these, I cried; it felt so incredible to know that even these great kids in Senegal were backing me in my fight against my brain tumour.

 

I wanted to dedicate this blog to them; Coraline, Thierno, Isatou, Mariama, Aya, Moctar, Malick, Fatou, Issa, Sokhna, Jean Louis, Muhammed, Ousseynou, Lamine, Fama, Ababacar, and Kenny. Not forgetting, of course, your wonderful teacher, Aba Bodinski. I wanted to make sure you wonderful students knew just how much of a smile (as well as happy tears) your letters put on my face! It was such a kind thing to do and I thank you for writing them so beautifully! (As a linguist, I can say your English writing skills are impressive!!).

Senegal Support

I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to share them on my blog:

 

To Anna Swabey by the 9th grade students in Le College Bilingue Dakar, Senegal

 

Dear Anna,

My name is Coraline, I am a student in College Bilingue in Dakar, and I am 14. With my English teacher we had read a text about you and your Brain Tumor.

I find you very courageous to fight such a disease. You are very determined and you help other people who are in the same situation as you and it is very cool. You are a model for me because of your bravery and your determination. You inspired me to fight and to succeed in life.

I advise you to carry on and you will succeed to fight against this Brain Tumor. I also congratulate you on your engagement and upcoming wedding. I wish you the best of the world.

Coraline

Hello Anna,

My name is Thierno Noba, I am in 9th grade at LCB, and live in Senegal.

I’m writing to express my support. I find you brave, bubbly and amazing. For me, you are inspirational because what you did is something someone else would not surely do. You are inspirational because you managed to turn your negative experiences into positive actions and I find it very fascinating.

I support you because I appreciate all the activities you established to fight Brain Tumor and encourage you to keep fighting because I know that you can make it.

I also want to congratulate you on your engagement and upcoming wedding. I wish you the best.

Thierno

 

Dearest Anna,

My name is Isatou KA and I am in 9th grade, in a school called College Bilingue in Senegal.

The reason why I am writing is to show my support. You are bright, intelligent and bubbly. You are very brave and I admire you because you turned your negative experiences into positive actions and I find it really fascinating. You are an inspiration because you really try to help other people in the same condition.

I support you to keep fighting because I know that you can make it. Never give up, keep moving forward because I am positive that you can win the battle.

I also want to congratulate you on your engagement and upcoming wedding. I wish you the best and hope that Andrew will make you happy.

Yours faithfully,

Isatou KA          

                    

Hello Anna

I am writing to you, to support you because what you are living is very difficult. You are very brave, intelligent and courageous. I hope that you will feel well after reading this message. Congratulation on your engagement. I hope that you will have a lot of happiness in your couple. You are a person who inspires me because you fight for the others who have the same disease as you.

Yours faithfully,

Mariama Bharati Fall 

 

Hello Anna

My name is Aya Dia I’m in 9th grade I live in Dakar. You are really courageous and brave. You are an inspiration because you took your illness positively. And you created a blog to help the people who had the same illness as you. 

I support you to keep fighting because you help a lot of people and I know that you can make it. So keep fighting for the people who have brain tumor.

Aya

 

Dearest Anna,

My name is Moctar Abbott, I am 15 and in 9th grade.  I am currently in a middle school called LCB that is located in Dakar, Senegal.

This week in class we have been talking about you and your amazing story. I understood that you are a person full of life which, considering your situation is extremely inspiring. As a result, I believe everyone should know about what you are currently going through. I believe that I am very privileged to be writing to you today.

I would also like to take this time to congratulate you on your engagement and wish you and your partner a great wedding.

 

Yours faithfully,

Moctar Abbott

 

Dear Anna,

My name is Malick Ndoye I am from L.C.B (a bilingual school) in Senegal (in Dakar) in 9th grade. I am writing you this letter to show you my happiness about your blog and what you are doing for people who are affected by brain tumour like you. I think that you are generous, courageous, kind and positive in what you are doing. You are an inspiration because if everyone is doing like you, a lot of people will survive to those kinds of diseases. I think you should keep on fighting for it and helping other brain tumour patients. Congratulation on your engagement and your upcoming weeding.      

Yours faithfully,

Malick Ndoye                              

 

Hi Anna,

My name is Fatou Balla Mboup. I come from Senegal. I’m a student in a school called LCB and I’m in 9thgrade.

Anna, you are one of the liveliest people I have ever heard of before. You are also very kind because of your action. Not everyone in the world will do that if they found out they just have 3 months to live. You Anna, you were fighting against the Brain Tumour and you don’t give up. You also think about other people who have the same problem as you and helping by show them they are not alone. That’s why I believe you are an inspiration.                                                  

I just want to tell you, don’t give up, continue to fight and help those people. Be brave.

You have all my support.                                                                               

 I also want to tell you, congratulation for being engaged and soon be married. You have all my wishes and hope this day will be the best for you and your future husband.                                                                                                                       

With all my support,

Fatou Balla MBOUP

 

Hello Anna

My name is Issa Kanji. I am 15 and I am writing to express my support. In my point of view, you are an amazing, courageous, smiling person who is determined to beat brain tumor. You are an inspiration to us because you are suffering from brain tumor and still getting one of the highest grades in the world.

 I support you because I know that your condition does not depend on the doctor but on how you try to fight against the disease. I am telling you this because GOD is the one that created the person that told you that you were going to die in 3 months but look, you lived a year longer and you are still doing amazing! I think it is very brave of you to decide to get married. And I am really impressed by your fiancée. Because even though you are suffering from one of the most dangerous diseases in the world, he still loves you for who you are. And it was really courageous of you to accept.

I encourage you, and hope you live longer because you DESERVE LIFE and LOVE.

Issa

 

Hi Anna!

I’m Sokhna, I’m fifteen and I am in LCB School in Dakar. I am also with your former teacher Mr. Bodian! We talked about you today in class. For me I think that you are strong not because you fight your tumor but because of the marathon of Paris. I can’t already run in sports so I think that you are brave for that. You are positive because you are smiling and staying strong and the key of success is to stay positive. It is the most important thing. I think you are an inspiration because you inspire me in working hard. You need to keep fighting because I think that you are strong and you need to fight for your friends, family and your fiancé but also for you! I think that your family is very proud of you and so are all the people who had read your blog! So congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Anna keep going like this I hope you will win this fight against your brain tumor!

PS: Listen to Stronger by Kanye West and Daft Punk because I believe the song has been written for you

Yours faithfully,

Sokhna Dabo.

 

Dear Anna,

My name is Jean-Louis Jousso, I’m in 9th Grade in a school called LCB and I live in Dakar. After reading the article about you, I can say that you are a determined and strong -minded woman. You are really courageous for fighting against this big disease. By doing that you’re saying: Never give up! You have all my support.

Congratulations on your engagement.

Yours faithfully

Jean Louis

 

 

Dear Anna,

My name is Muhammed and I study at L.C.B (Le College Bilingue). I am in 3e and I live in Senegal, Dakar. I read your story and I think that you are a very nice and courageous woman. I think you are an inspiration because thinking about other people is always a good thing and even if it is about people in the same situation. You are a very smart woman and with all the things you accomplished you don’t deserve such a thing.

But you should keep fighting, a miracle can still happen. Follow your dreams and don’t give up. I also wanted to congratulate you for your upcoming wedding and I wish it to be full of happiness.

Muhammed

 

Dear Anna,

My name is Ousseynou Ndoye. I study at L.C.B, in 9th grade. I live in Senegal. I decided to send you this message because of your act of braveness and courage. After I read your story, I was speechless! The way you reacted was just exceptional and very inspirational. You are no ordinary person but a new figure in history! A lot of people in your situation would have only thought about themselves but you did not! You decided to help others. I believe your acts of kindness can beat the Brain tumor and because you are never alone, even from Africa you have support! Congratulations on your engagement! I hope you have a peaceful and successful life!

Ousseynou

 

Dear Anna

My name is Lamine Sidy Diouf I am in 9th grade. I am in a school called LCB. I am 15 years old and I live in Dakar, Senegal. We have been talking about you and for me you are a really brave woman because if I was at your place I would be crying for three months. The way you deal with your illness really impressed me. You are positive and it is really cool!! Continue to live your life like you want and don’t give up I am your number 1 fan in Senegal. And also congratulations and good wishes for you and your partner. Happy wedding.

Yours faithfully                                                  

Lamine

 

Dear Anna

My name is Fama Mbacke. I’m 14 years old. I’m studying in LCB Dakar (Senegal). I found you really courageous and inspirational. Because I think that if it was me, I wouldn’t be that strong and positive minded. You inspire me because I really like what you are doing “showing to people in the same case of you that they are not alone”. I find this great, because I think that many people need that support that you give. I find this fascinating and encourage you to continue! I wish that you will continue fighting as you have always done.  Please never give up! Congratulation on your engagement and all the best for the future.

Yours faithfully,

Fama.

 

Dearest Anna,

My name is Ababacar Ba, I am in 9th grade, and I am from Dakar. I am writing this letter to show my support and all the attention that I carry to your situation.

You are a courageous woman and even though I have never met you, I am sure you are always merry, because you never give up and you stay positive.  I really appreciate what you did when you created a blog to show others that are in the same position that they are not alone. I wish you all the happiness in the world and that you spend a beautiful wedding with your fiancé.

Yours faithfully,

Ababacar

 

Hello Anna, my name is Kenny Araujo, I am fifteen years old and I go to school at le college bilingual de Dakar. I am in the 9th grade. I think you are a very courageous and inspiring person for not getting affected by your disease.

I encourage you to keep doing what you do because it helps people in the same situation as you are but that are not as brave as you are. And I also encourage you to keep up your fund raising activities because there are people with the same disease but can’t get treatment because they are poor. Congratulations for your upcoming wedding.                             

Kenny Araujo

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Thanks again!

All my love,

Anna xxxx

POST 21: LEICESTER TIGERS HELP KICK BRAIN TUMOURS IN TO TOUCH

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As I have told you guys from POST 1 on this blog, I am a massive rugby union addict, and you all know by now, my team is the Leicester Tigers. I have been going to Tigers games home, away, and abroad since I was eight years old, and even with Trev in tow, that is not set to change anytime soon!

 

 

So you can imagine my delight when I saw this article crop up on their website this week: Show Support for Brain Tumour Campaign. Although, upsetting to hear the loss of Michael, another Tigers fan, who sadly passed away at the mere age of 27, what his family are doing to help this campaign in his memory is remarkable.

If you have been following my blog, particularly over the past few months, you might be aware that I have heavily backed the online e-petition calling for more funds for brain tumour research that was launched by Maria Lester in memory of her brother Stephen, who sadly lost his life to the disease in 2014. Months ago I signed this petition and after reaching 10,000 signatures, the petition gained a response from government, unfortunately, not the one we were looking for (this response can be found on the petition page).

Thankfully, the newly formed Petitions Committee decided that this cause was worth looking into further – particularly as it was not on the agenda for the Health Committee. They wanted to gain perspectives and evidence from charity campaigners, clinicians, and patients alike to best decide if this issue should be debated in Parliament.

The Committee launched an online web forum for people to share their experiences and to show their support for more funding into research. This closed on the 30th October 2015 with over 1100 comments left on the chat; one of those comments being my own:

“In January 2015, at 23 years of age, I was diagnosed with a Grade 3 glioma anaplastic astrocytoma and was told I had, on average, 3 years to live. My whole world changed. Although I have been offered treatment and have undergone radio/chemotherapy and I am on chemotherapy again for a further 12 months, the future looks bleak. Unavoidably, this awful disease will not only take my life, but will destroy the lives of my mother, father, sister, brother, partner, niece, nephews, aunties, friends….my, the list goes on! And since being diagnosed, I have unfortunately come across and met younger, young and older people in the exact same situation; who too worry what they will be leaving their families to deal with when they are gone. I chose to try and not dwell too much on this horrific news and to turn it into some form of positive; I want to make a difference to lives like mine, and to those who are yet to be diagnosed. I decided to start writing a blog called Inside My Head (www.annaswabey.wordpress.com) detailing my life with a terminal brain tumour – I saw this as a way of helping myself, others alike, and to raise awareness of this severely underfunded cancer (of which I knew nothing about until my diagnosis). Off the back of its popularity, I began fundraising for Brain Tumour Research Campaign (to date I have raised £35k). Research into brain tumours is my only hope of living. I will not stop fighting for more funding into research until my last breath! Forgive me, for I am not a doctor, a scientist, and I by no means profess to be an expert in the field at all, but if brain tumours kill more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer – why does research into brain tumours receive a mere 1% of national cancer research funding?! …It does baffle me. My diagnosis has changed my life forever. The only change I wish for the future is that there will be a new found hope; different treatments, and ultimately, the best ‘C’ word I will have ever heard – A CURE.”

 

Consequently the Committee invited 20 of the people who commented on the web forum to a roundtable discussion at Westminster. I was delighted to be one of those people. On the 17th November I went to the Houses of Parliament to share my experiences with the MPs on the Committee. I thought the day went very well and the MPs seemed keen to listen and were extremely empathetic. I sincerely believe this is a huge move forward for not only brain tumours on the political agenda, but also for democracy in general; obviously I feel very honoured to have been given the opportunity to be a part of that. We now await the decision of the Committee…

 

What will give us added strength however, is the more signatures we can accumulate on the e petition.

We have until February 3rd to try and reach 100,000 signatures, which will guarantee the issue of brain tumour research funding to be debated in Parliament.

 

This is my final plea to ALL who read this to sign the petition. Share it with the person you are sat next to perhaps, or a family member? Let’s get over this final hurdle!

Whatever comes of this petition  it will more than likely be too late to make a difference to my prognosis however, I am almost certain it will change lives of so many others!

This is why I sincerely want to thank my rugby club, Leicester Tigers for getting on board this campaign – it means so much! #TigersFamily

 176c982b44772753b55402e3c27b1e78

 

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!!!

 

 

 

POST 17: I SAID YES!!!

I want to take you all back to the beginning of this year when I was dealt the devastating blow that has led to me writing this blog – Trev the tw*t! I also want to give you further insight into my private life, so here we go…

This year could not have begun any worse. At 23 years of age, with supposedly my whole life in front of me, I was told I am dying. As I began to (excuse the pun) get my head around everything, I have a vivid recollection of a specific conversation I had with my Mum that led to me having tears streaming down my face. It all of a sudden hit me that I would never fall in love; I would never get married and have my own family. And to put it bluntly, in that moment my heart broke.

My thinking was, even if I did ever get the chance to meet someone, what was going to be the scenario? … “Hi, I’m Anna and I have a terminal brain tumour, nice to meet you!” …ummm, I couldn’t quite see that working! I didn’t have the best of flirting skills before, and didn’t think this would add to my talents!

********

Twelve months later, however, where do I find myself? I am sat on my sofa surrounded by “Congratulations On your Engagement” banners, balloons, flowers, and cards. How the bloomin’ hell did this happen you may ask?! (I sure am!)

decorations

decorations2

 

ENTER ANDREW.

(For those of you who are easily nauseous, be warned, soppy stuff approaching…)

Where do I begin with this guy? I reckon perfection is pretty darn close! When the darkest days of my life were bearing down on me, Andrew came and brought the brightest sunshine. He knew from day one that I was Anna and Andy rugbybattling a terminal illness, and yet did not let this, in any way, shape or form cloud any of our time together. It’s so cliché to say I knew from day one, but, personally I knew he was more than special. I most definitely do not know where I would be mentally, in terms of dealing with this illness without him. I’m sure I would be battling on through with all of my family support. But with this massive smile on my face? I am not so sure! The most beautiful thing for me, is that Andy sees me, just for me, not ‘Anna with a brain tumour’. He is obviously there for me to talk to about Trev and all the emotions and physical pain Trev brings with him, and vice versa whenever either of us need, and he has accompanied me to as many hospital visits as possible.

To sum him up, he is my best friend and love of my life and our relationship is SO FUN! Considering all that has been going on, I don’tBall ready think, out of all my 24 years, that I have laughed so much. Regardless of this illness, I am positive, that one way or another, we would have found each other; this would have been too good to have missed. And in Andy’s (maybe slightly corny) words, when we do have to consider Trev, he would rather have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. What I do have to remind myself is that three years is only an average diagnosis and I am my own person, different to all other brain tumour patients who have sadly passed before me; this could mean I live for many, many years longer than this average figure – and as I regularly say, game on Trev! I cannot halt living my life, and my oh my, how I’m blessed to be living the rest of my life, however long it may be, with Andy right by my side!

********

On Saturday December 5th 2015, Andy got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. OF COURSE I SAID YES!!!!!! I am still buzzing with excitement and I have permanent butterflies. He has made me the happiest woman alive! And I am delighted to share the happiest moment of my life with you all –

 

Other than showing off my ring, the real reason I wanted to share this special moment with you all is to help others who may have been given a similar diagnosis and have experienced some of my previous fears and might feel as though this means you have to stop living ‘normally’. I am aware I am fortunate that, to date, I have no severe or consistent side effects; however I know that Andy will be by my side if ever that were the case. There are, evidently, truly incredible people out there; Andy topping that list (not that I am biased!! 😛 ). We all deserve happiness and we need to embrace it, despite illness.

ROLL ON THE WEDDING!!!! 😀

Much like our house warming…you are all invited! 😛

POST 12: WHERE TO GO FROM HERE…?

Hello!

I wrote this part of my post quite a while ago now, but never got round to checking it and posting it, but here you go…

(Written roughly w/c 29th June 2015)

Well, my break from treatment has flown. And I have had many of you asking if I am okay as I have been rather quiet since finishing chemo/radiotherapy on June 12th

Truth is, I have struggled the past few weeks, and I want to try and be as honest as possible with you all, without being too much of a “negative Nancy”, as my mood has changed over the past couple of days or so and for my own sake I would like to keep steering in this more positive direction. And I am really late – I should be packing for my trip down south right now, so I won’t keep you for long. (That is now a lie – apologies!!)

I have had, like the doctor did mention could happen, severe side effects in terms of fatigue since completing treatment. I have found it hard to conjure up the motivation to shower, get ready etc. let alone go out. I have then found myself in a vicious circle; the less I do, the more tired I become; the less I do, the more I think; the more I think, the more negative thoughts that enter my brain.

The main thought that has been bugging me (in all honesty, scaring) me the most, has been that we are in JULY! It has been over seven months since I was taken in to hospital now. As much as I like to remain positive and hope that I will live a HELL OF A LOT longer than the average 3 year diagnosis, if we do take this 3 year figure – I have already fought through 7 months out of 36 months already. 7 months, gone, just like that!

Other times, I have been worrying about my scan that is scheduled for Tuesday. What if the tumour has grown?! I have been trying to play it through in my mind of how I will deal with the news if that is what I will be told; but nothing can prepare you for that. I try to remind myself of a previous blog post I wrote, when I spoke about how a session at the Maggie’s Centre taught me to deal with uncertainty and how not to try to worry about things that are totally out of your control; but I am most definitely NOT a pro at this yet! So, I sit here, begging for the best case scenario; I want to hear the word STABLE. I want to be stable. We always knew that Trev was not very receptive to radiotherapy treatment, so I am not being ridiculous thinking that I will be told it has shrunk or anything; just stable. No growth please!!!!!

Tuesday is also when I will begin my next load of chemotherapy; Temozolomide again, but this time on double dosage, for 5 days, and then off for the remainder of that 4 week period. Depending on my reaction to it, this could last for up to 12 months. A year; blehhhh! I am, again, expecting the worst; if you remember, I was very sick on my first day of chemo in the back end of April, thus, on double the dosage, I reckon it may be quite tough.

I have basically just felt a bit POOP! I have piled on weight, I have no hair, I have minging skin (all may seem so little and trivial in the grand scheme of things I know), and being completely honest, I don’t think I have ever got my head around the fact that I have cancer (nope, I certainly haven’t, as it still feels odd typing it out).

I feel like I need to apologise that this post is probably a bit of a let down and not very “Anna-like”, but I think it is important that you know that even people who can come across really tough on the surface, and put on a smile and a brave face, can be just as weak and vulnerable as someone who cannot hide it as well. Most of the time, I find I put on the brave face to save my family from having to deal with an emotional wreck 24/7. But if these down weeks have taught me anything, it is probably that this is not a good action plan. I need to let them know exactly how I am feeling; and I want to let you know too. And I should not apologise for having such feelings.

In actual fact, I found this quote online the other day, probably when I was stalking someone I do not know on Instagram (as you do….right?!):

Never apologize for how you feel. No one can control how they feel. The sun doesn’t apologize for being the sun. The rain doesn’t say sorry for falling. Feelings just are.

On the flip side, I have been on the radio again, BBC Tees had me on Radiofor a full hour show which was fab. I have been amazed by the on going fundraising support and ideas from so many people; it really is humbling and I am so honoured people have taken this campaign to their hearts and are willing to help try to find a cure to save my life and so many others alike.

I need to remind myself, and inform you, that since deciding to start fundraising on behalf of Brain Tumour Research Campaign, only at the beginning of March 2015, and, with the help of all of you wonderful lot, the total we have raised cumulatively has now ticked over £27,000!

TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS!

This is when I get a “kick up my derriere” and realise that I am doing good! WE are doing good! No, actually we are doing better than good! £27,000 is INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!

change lives quote

I am blessed that no matter how I am feeling mentally, I always have the support of so many; family, boyfriend, loved ones, friends, adopted families, brain tumour buddies, and people who have come across my blog and have made the conscious decision to help me on my journey, most without even knowing me at all!

I will be sure to let you know how I get on this coming Tuesday, I will just apologise in advance if it is slightly delayed, as I will be starting on my chemo.

But this is it; Fresh start; Positive Anna. Speak soon!!!!

pick yourself up

Scan Results

My appointment was on July 14th 2015. It is now August 8th 2015. So I broke my promise to you all I am afraid.

Some of you who follow Inside My Head on Facebook also, may already have seen why this is the case. Please see below what I posted:

facebook post number 1facebook post number 2

Trev, the bastard, had grown 😦 .