Mum who thought she had ‘baby brain’ died of aggressive cancer six months later

A mother who thought she had “baby brain” was told she had herpes before dying from an aggressive cancer just six months later.

Alan Johnstone, 38, lost his wife, Anneka, 33, on November 18, 2019, just six months after she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma - an aggressive type of cancer that occurs in the brain or spinal cord.

Mr Johnstone met his “childhood sweetheart” when he was 18 and they later married in 2015.

Mrs Johnstone gave birth to their daughter, Sienna, now four, in 2018.

 (Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)
(Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)

Mr Johnstone says the new mum was suffering with spells of dizziness but put it down to “baby brain” – until she fell while holding her daughter Sienna, then six months old.

Mrs Johnstone was rushed to hospital in June 2019, after she began dragging her feet, and the pair were told she had herpes simplex virus and she was given antibiotics.

A week later the couple’s world fell apart when she was officially diagnosed with a glioblastoma grade IV - a malignant brain tumour - and she passed away just six months later.

Mr Johnstone, a medical technician, from Dumfries, Scotland, said: “It hit us all like a tonne of bricks, Anneka wanted to see her daughter grow up.

“After being told the news, we drove back to tell the family. The first person Anneka saw when she walked through the door was Sienna - she collapsed.

 (Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)
(Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)

“All she wanted was to be a mum, be there for Sienna’s 18th and watch her get married.”

The couple met while she was 17 and Alan was 18, while he was on leave from the military, and said it was “love at first sight”.

The pair got married in 2015 and later had Sienna on October 13, 2018.

In the summer of 2019, Mr Johnstone said his wife was suffering with spells of dizziness.

The pair both put the symptom down to ‘baby brain’ until Mrs Johnstone fell while holding her baby.

She was rushed to hospital in June 2019, and she was told she had herpes simplex virus and was given antibiotics.

 (Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)
(Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)

Just a week later, following an MRI scan and a biopsy on the brain, she was then given the devastating news she actually had a glioblastoma - a malignant brain tumour.

Mr Johnstone said: “It was sickening knowing the person she was and that there was nothing I could do.

“I could see the fear in her eyes, she was terrified - like anyone would be at 33 years old.

“Anneka was dealing with it well, but the family was not, we knew there was nothing we could do.”

After being diagnosed, Mrs Johnstone’s health started to deteriorate, and she spent lots of her last few months in hospital.

The former dietician was moved to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and stayed in the palliative care unit.

 (Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)
(Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)

Mr Johnstone said: “We had a rota with the family so someone could spend 24 hours with her.

“You could spend 24 hours with her but only get 30 seconds of the real Anneka.”

Mrs Johnstone passed away on November 18, 2019 - six months after being diagnosed.

Her husband said: “It has been a tough road for me - going from a close-knit family to being single with a 13-month-old.

“Sienna gave me a totally different focus, she is my number one. I give her as much love as I can give her - she is the reason I get up in the morning.”

 (Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)
(Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)

This year, Mr Johnstone will be running the London Marathon in memory of his wife and to raise money for The Brain Tumour Organisation.

So far, he has raised £55k for the charity after walking 215 miles across Scotland in a week.

Mr Johnstone said: “I am doing this for the next person who is diagnosed.

“What would help is a change in government funding and a change in how they invest in the brain tumour charities.

“Not enough money is being invested into it.

 (Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)
(Courtesy Alan Johnstone / SWNS)

“My mum and Anneka’s mum are going to bring Sienna down, they will be supporting me.

“Hopefully I will get to the end without many tears, raise as much money as possible and share Anneka’s story.

“I will never forget the stamp she put on the world and hope there is loads of Annie in Sienna as she grows.”

You can donate to Mr Johnstone’s JustGiving page In memory of Anneka here.