John, Anna's brother and our newly appointed trustee shares with us the power of Special Days and how they can bring hope and excitement despite the misery derived from a serious illness. 

"Just over 20 years ago my little sister Anna died from a rare form of cancer at the age of 31. It was a cruel illness, one that forced her in and out of hospital many times over the five years that she fought the disease.

However, Anna was never one to dwell too long on the downside of any situation; instead she was always looking for the next excuse for a laugh and a party. Cancer was no exception; ‘I’m not going to let this thing get the better of me’ was her attitude, an inspiring one for a young girl facing something that she knew could kill her. In that time she often bolstered her determination by embarking on a series of specially planned days and nights out – to gigs, shopping trips, parties with friends and family - that would counterbalance the misery of chemo, radiotherapy and many operations.

To see her dressed up glam, laughing uproariously out of the window of a stretch-limo, toasting everyone she passed as we cruised through the West End, was enough to help forget she had cancer. Of course Anna herself could never really forget, but she could certainly put it to the back of her mind in the right circumstances. A special day wasn’t just about blocking out the everpresent, it was about turbo-boosting her confidence and looking to the future with hope and excitement.

It was this attitude which led my mum and dad, Bob and Megs, to seek ways to channel Anna’s positivity at a time of such huge loss. The result, of course, was an amazing charity whose core mission not only borrowed Anna’s nickname but also her inspirational approach to life, and death.

In that spirit, let’s look forward to the 20th anniversary of Willow this Autumn. I am delighted to have been appointed as a Trustee at a time when we can proudly mark the achievement of having delivered, since the launch of Willow in 1999, more than 16,000 Special Days to young people who need positive relief in times of pain and anxiety. As Anna would be the first to remind us, that’s well worth celebrating!" 

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