Signs of brain cancer: Mom who dismissed symptoms as ‘baby brain’ dies after diagnosis

A mother who thought she had ‘baby brains’ – but was told she had herpes – died of cancer just six months later.

Anneka Johnstone, 33, died in November 2019 after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of cancer that occurs in the brain or spinal cord.

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At the time of her death, she and husband Alan, 38, had a 13-month-old baby, Sienna, who is now motherless.

Sienna, who is now four years old, was just six months old when Anneka started having dizzy spells in June 2019.

Alan says Anneka attributed this to “baby brains” – until she fell while holding the baby.

Anneka and Alan Johnstone. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS

A short time later, the new mother also began to drag with her feet.

Anneka was taken to a hospital near her home in the Scottish city of Dumfries in June 2019.

The couple were told she had the herpes simplex virus and was given antibiotics.

A week later, her world came crashing down – when Anneka was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma.

She died just six months later.

Anneka got dizzy spells in June 2019. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS
She put it down to “baby brains” — until she fell while holding six-month-old Sienna. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS

“It hit us all like a stunner,” said Alan, a medical technician.

“Anneka wanted to see her daughter grow up.

“After hearing the news, we drove back to tell the family.

“The first person Anneka saw as she walked through the door was Sienna – she collapsed.

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

Anneka was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS

Alan and Anneka met when she was 17 and he was 18 when he was on leave from the military.

He said it was love at first sight.

The couple were married in 2015 and Sienna was born on October 13, 2018.

Alan says Anneka handled it well, but the family felt helpless. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS

In June 2019, Alan said Anneka had started suffering from dizzy spells.

The couple both attributed the symptom to “baby brains” until Anneka fell while holding her infant daughter.

After initially being told she had herpes simplex, an MRI scan and brain biopsy revealed the devastating news that she did in fact have glioblastoma – a malignant brain tumor.

“It was disgusting to know who she was and there was nothing I could do,” Alan said.

“I could see the fear in her eyes, she was scared – like everyone else at 33.

“Anneka was fine with it, but not the family.

“We knew there was nothing we could do.”

She spent much of her final months in the hospital. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS

The former nutritionist’s health deteriorated rapidly.

She spent much of her final months in the hospital.

“We had a roster with the family so someone could be with her 24 hours a day,” Alan said.

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

Anneka died on November 18, 2019, six months after the diagnosis.

Anneka died in November 2019, six months after being diagnosed. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS

“It’s been a tough journey going from a close-knit family to being single with a 13-month-old,” Alan said.

“Sienna gave me a whole different focus, she’s my number one.

“I give her as much love as I can give her — she’s the reason I get up in the morning.”

Alan raises money for brain tumor charities. Credit: Courtesy Alan Johnstone/SWNS

To give back, Alan has raised A$95,800 for Britain’s Brain Tumor Organization – by walking 345km across Scotland in a week.

He says not enough money is being invested in brain tumor charities.

As for his beloved wife, he hopes to see her reflected in his little girl.

“I’ll never forget the stamp she made on the world,” Alan said.

“And I hope there’s plenty of Annie in Sienna as she grows.”

– with BenBarry

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