Inspired by a pancreatically challenged nerd (Diabetes Geek); and having spent some time reflecting on the humans who have an impact on my life in some way; I’m going to write a series of blogs about these people; who can either be described as Saints (for putting up with me) or somewhat loopy (for putting up with me).
The first, EXQUISITE human is the very reason I finally started the Discombobulated Diabetic, and she probably doesn’t even realise it. (I do also have to credit a couple of others, I haven’t forgotten, and I never will). Many conversations about writing and what to write about were had, but I can say with absolute certainty, that without reading the 30 odd posts written by mon ami; I would not have had the courage to allow my fingers to dance across my keyboard.
Who is this person you ask? Well grab a brew and let me enlighten you.
Introducing, Anna Louise Swabey.
Anna stumbled into our family somewhere in the early millennium. We’re a mostly inclusive family and we do love “new blood”, well I just adored Anna immediately, deciding that I would simply have to adopt her so that this bright, funny, kind, considerate young lady could be in my world forever. She fit in with our madness pretty quickly and added to it where others would shy away. There is not a single member of our family that would say they don’t adore Anna, and I would lay down my life on the fact that this is a true statement for anyone that’s had the opportunity to meet her. Anna, always able to hold her own against my cheeky uncles and join in with the various antics of hilarity that would ensue when the clan gathered, endeared herself to us more and more over time. I talk about us being an inclusive family, but Anna always helped me feel more included. With my depression and GAD, I sometimes find it really difficult to even go to family events – as with any family, not everyone gets along or understands each other all the time – knowing I’d have my buddy there almost always ensured my attendance.
The day my little sister got married wasn’t the easiest day for me. It was bound to be emotional anyway, but having recently come out of a relationship with the man I thought I was going to have babies and forever with, on top of everyone asking me if I was bothered about not being a bridesmaid (for 3 years!!!), feeling a little bit on the outside looking in and not forgetting the fear of the inevitable “when are you going to get married then?” questions; it was always going to be a day where my anxiety and depression would be at battle with me. It was clear there was a group of lovelies in my family determined that I was going to have a good time; Anna played a massive part in that. She would tell me off when I changed out of my ridiculously high heels into ballet pumps; there’s an irony that as a Type 1 diabetic, I was literally up and down all night! She would physically drag me up on the dance floor and keep me up there when it looked like I was heading for a darkened corner, she kept me hydrated and assisted me in maintaining my blood glucose levels (Vodka AND juice), for the duration. Given the amount of Vodka and juice and Kir Royale’s consumed, plus the amount of time I spent outside getting “air” (read: avoiding), it can’t be a surprise that my memory of the wedding reception at least is somewhat hazy; but I haven’t forgotten the effort Anna (and some other quality humans) went to, to ensure I not only had a good time, but felt less alone than I would have done without them on that day. It was the most fantastic wedding, and a blessing to have people look out for me too. As a result, my memories of that day will always be intrinsically linked to my friendship with Anna.
This is where a lot of people would begin the next paragraph with, “unfortunately…”; not me, instead I choose: Such is life, that we lost touch. Anna had finished university and was forging her career and settling herself on a new path. I missed her, I thought of her often and hoped that once she was where she needed to be, our paths would once again cross, but that until then she would know I was always there for her, regardless of the time that passed.
Our paths did cross again, on 16th March 2015. I’d been thinking about Anna and wondering what she was up to in the days leading up to this date, I couldn’t work out why and I equally couldn’t stop the feeling I was meant to be in touch with her, it felt like I was physically being drawn in her direction. I periodically have that happen, quite often I’ll wonder about The Corrs for example, and whether they’re still making music (the combination of loving to sing and Irish heritage mean I love The Corrs, like the swedes apparently love a snowy sauna), within weeks they’ll be promoting a new album…it’s a little bit peculiar. Anyway, back to Anna, I’d seen my parents that day and they had shared some news about her. In that moment, everything fell into place, I understood the pull and the thoughts. The moment I got home I looked Anna up. I found her blog. What I’d been told was true. My heart broke and simultaneously filled with pride.
You see, Anna is dying.
The pride came because, despite being told she has a Grade 3 Glioma, Anaplastic Astrocytoma Brain Tumour, and then being told that she had anything from a month to 3 years to live, Anna has made the courageous decision to share each step of her journey, Anna has made the decision to defy her prognosis, she is not taking this lying down and has thrown herself into raising awareness and funds for Brain Tumour Research Campaign. This vibrant young woman, in the face of death is flipping it the bird and saying “Nope, not yet, I have life to do!” I spent a year reading Anna’s blog, devouring each post and using lots of these wonderful words strung together to share her news and encourage (beg) people to read and share her story and donate money to her justgiving page.
Then, earlier this year Anna did something that made me certain that I want to be like her when I grow up (it’s good to have something to aspire to, even as the older person). Anna went to Parliament to speak to MPs as part of a group of 20, following the successful petition started by Maria Lester to get an increase in funding for Brain Tumour Research. To me, almost the pinnacle of her achievements so far in this journey, is that she has actively contributed to affecting change. One day, someone will have the chance to survive a brain tumour like Anna’s, all thanks in part, to this inspirational group of people getting funding increased, more research done, more awareness raised and therefor, symptoms caught early enough to do something about it. Those future people may never know that the names of the people who made that possible include Anna, until they do some research. They will then undoubtedly feel the way us Type 1’s do about Frederick Banting – genuinely grateful that someone cared enough to give time, thought and resources to change something because it wasn’t working.
Anna visiting Parliament made me realise that each one of us is capable of using our voices, individually and collectively, to affect change and make a positive impact and contribution to the world in which we live. It doesn’t have to be particularly big, you just have to do it and be proud that you did it. I coined a phrase, “When life gives you lemons, do an Anna”. In May 2001, Life gave me a mammoth lemon – Diabetes. 2016 marked 15 years since that bittersweet gift. So using my new found understanding of what “leaving a mark” meant and a determination that if nothing else, Anna would know she affected a change in my life at least, I decided that I was going to begin blogging, no more excuses; the time was now! Since then I’ve found a home in a community of fellow PWD’s, I’ve learnt more about my Diabetes than I realised was possible to learn, found out that I’m not too terrible at engaging with people, I’m an OK writer; but above all, I am proud. I’ve made some amazing new friends, friends I know will read Anna’s story and support me in spreading the word, but I am proud that within those new friends, using the PMA that Anna Louise Swabey inspires; I have affected change, and left a mark.
Anna, I can never thank you enough for being so simply fabulous. I am truly honoured to count you amongst my Exquisite Humans, you’re in excellent company; as you will find out. But for now, know that your influence has left an indelible footprint across the path of my life.
Keep celebrating your Exquisite Humans!
For more information about Anna’s story
Visit her blog: www.annaswabey.wordpress.com
On twitter: @braintumourblog
On Facebook: Inside My Head
Or her justgiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/InsideMyHead
More information about the work of Brain Tumour Research Campaign can be found at http://www.wayahead-btrc.org
If you have been affected by reading this story, please share it to help spread awareness.
You can also see the Trailer for this post here: https://youtu.be/SBahRcTvRks