Woman who thought dizziness caused by ‘baby brain’ dies aged 33 after glioblastoma diagnosis
A woman who believed her dizziness was being caused by "baby brain" was then told she had herpes, only to later be diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.
Anneka Johnstone, 33, died on 18 November 2019, just just six months after she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma - an aggressive type of cancer that occurs in the brain or spinal cord.
Her husband Alan Johnstone, 38, has since been working to raise funds and awareness for a cancer charity.
He and Anneka were childhood sweethearts who met when they were teenagers, before marrying in 2015. Anneka gave birth to their daughter, Sienna, now four, in 2018.
Alan says new mum Anneka 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.
Anneka 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 Anneka was officially diagnosed with a glioblastoma grade IV - a malignant brain tumour - and she passed away just six months later.
Alan, 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. All she wanted was to be a mum, be there for Sienna's 18th and watch her get married."
Alan said: "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, Anneka'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.
Alan 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."
Anneka passed away on November 18, 2019 - six months after being diagnosed.
Alan 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."
This year, Alan will be running the London Marathon in memory of Anneka and to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity. So far, he has raised £55k for the charity after walking 215 miles across Scotland in a week.
Alan 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. My mum and Anneka's mum are going to bring Sienna down, they will be supporting me.”
He added: "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."
Alan's JustGiving page can be found here.