Mum, 33, dies of brain cancer after NHS doctor blamed herpes

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A new mum died of brain cancer months after doctors said her “baby brain” may have been a result of herpes. Anneka Johnstone, 33, of Dumfries, Scotland, died in November 2019 after she was diagnosed with a stage four glioblastoma, which is one of the most aggressive types of the disease.

Her heartbroken husband, Alan, has revealed how she originally put the dizziness she was feeling down to “baby brain” after giving birth to their daughter Sienna in 2018.

She was rushed to hospital after she started to drag her feet and suffered a fall while holding Sienna.

Doctors told her she had herpes and prescribed antibiotics, but a week later she was dealt the devestating news that she had a glioblastoma. She died six months later.

A glioblastoma is the most common high grade primary brain tumour in adults, according to The Brain Tumour Charity.

More than 2,000 cases are diagnosed annually with patients usually only living for 14 months after diagnosis. It is one of the deadliest cancers in part due to the speed with which the cancer spreads as well as a lack of treatments.

It is the same disease which killed the Labour politician Tessa Jowell.

Mr Johnstone said of his wife’s diagnosis: “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.”

The 38-year-old medical technician added: “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.”

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The couple met when ther were teenagers and he was on leave from the military. Mr Johnstone described it as love at first sight.

They were married in 2015 and later had Sienna on October 13, 2018.

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

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

Mr Johnstone said the family had a rota of who would visit his wife to ensure someone was with her 24 hours a day.

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

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 £55,000 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.

“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.”

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