Willow blog

Anna’s Journey: This is your Life….

February 21, 2017

For our Radio 4 Appeal week, we are featuring Anna’s story, originally told in Bob Wilson’s autobiography. Today’s post tells how Anna’s family experienced their own special day in the midst of her treatment.

Behind my back, Anna, Megs and the boys had spent the last month working with the BBC team to piece together my story and find a convenient time in Anna’s treatment to get Michael Aspel to present the famous red book.  It was 2 November when Megs bade me farewell from home with the words, ‘Have a nice day.’  I found her choice of expression strange, but dismissed it, just happy that she could smile again since Anna’s return home.

David Seaman told me, prior to training, that a BBC film crew were making a documentary about him.  I was used to such minor distractions where he was concerned.  During our warm-up session the first-team squad ran as a tightly packed group towards the goal where I was coaching, which was unusual.  When they stopped abruptly, I turned to see Jill Dando emerge from the middle of the pack.

‘What on earth are you doing here?’ I asked of my lovely friend.

Before she answered, I was astonished to see Michael Aspel appear behind her, clutching the big red book and saying the famous words at me.  My mind was in turmoil.  ‘This is Your Life’ at a time when Anna’s life seemed to be fading fast.  After smiling politely, I asked for the cameras to stop recording.

‘I don’t want to do this,’ I said.  ‘Anna is too ill.’

But the reason Jill was part of the catch was precisely because Megs and Anna had anticipated my reaction.

‘It’s Anna who’s planned it, Bob,’ said Jill.

Moments later my mobile phone rang to confirm her words.  The face of the phone showed ‘Megs Mob’ was calling me.  It wasn’t my wife on the other end but Anna, my mischievous, madcap Anna, saying, ‘Dad, I’m ready to party.’

And party we did.  As I stood behind the big screens with Michael, the title music playing, I took out my white hankie in readiness to wave should I lose control.  I was confronted by a collection of family and friends led by John, Anna, Mitchell and Robert.  As I hugged my son John, he fiercely whispered in my ear, ‘Dad, don’t cry.’ It wasn’t easy to obey.  As I moved back from an embrace with Anna, her smile dissolved and her look of love and pride for ‘Daddy, my Daddy’ gave way to emotion.  My other son Robert and Mitchell were as concerned as John at how we would all hold up to the occasion.

It was fantastic, simply fantastic.  For the next forty minutes and at the big party that followed, we experienced shared joy that we wouldn’t have thought possible.  It was an event at which Anna could be normal, join in the gossip, catch up with cousins and hold hands with her Grandpa Miles, Megs’ dad.  She was wheeled from group to group, laughing and smiling.  I’m certain she knew it would be the last time she would see most of her family.

Here she was, three weeks after being on death’s doorstep, the life and soul of the party.  To all observers, she appeared to have no pain, no worries.  Her adrenaline rush and excitement lasted ten full days.  On every one of them, Megs and I arrived at her home anticipating deterioration in her condition, but she appeared better than she had been for weeks.  All she wanted to do was talk about our magical day, gossip about friends and family and share experiences of the day, an activity that seemed to work better than all the medication that lined her cupboards. 

Bob’s daughter Anna, and Warrick, whose story is featured in our Radio 4 Appeal this week are testament to the importance of having something positive to look forward to.

Having time out from treatment during serious illness and an opportunity to create happy memories with family and friends during this time is so important.

Willow needs your support and your donations to create more Special Days. Please donate to our appeal

Read the other parts of Anna’s story here. 

Anna’s Journey: Diagnosis

Anna’s Journey: Cancer Returns

Anna’s Journey: Anna’s Legacy