Our journey with Willow

Jessica is 22 and has Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) – a genetic condition that causes growth of multiple benign tumours throughout the nervous system. In her own words Jessica describes her journey with Willow.

"It was back in 2007 when I had my Special Day. I had some major surgery coming up to remove a brain tumour and my mum had contacted Willow to arrange a Special Day for me before my operation.

" It's the best feeling in the world seeing someone smile and knowing that you were the reason why. "

Jessica, 22, living with NF2

I’m a big fan of Wallace and Gromit animation and for my Special Day I chose to visit the creators, Aardman Animation studios and learn some more about these fantastic characters.

We had such an amazing day at the studios, we were even lucky enough to witness some of the scenes from Aardman’s film The Pirates! in the making. After the day we were sworn to secrecy about the movie and we were so thrilled when it was finally released.

Seeing the movie reminded me so much of Willow. My Special Day had provided me and my family with some precious memories. I remember how I felt on the build-up to the day, we had something positive to focus on and look forward to, this made such a change from my reality at the time.

After seeing the film I felt that I was then in the position to give something back to this wonderful charity, I wanted to give others a Special Day like mine.

My friend Charlotte and I decided to raise funds by hiking Hadrian's Wall Path.  We hiked for nine days straight, it was a huge challenge for me, due to effects of my illness I have total sight loss in my left eye which adds to the strain on my mobility. But physical weaknesses can be overcome by mental strength and “completing the full 84 miles of Hadrian’s Wall Path proved to me that whilst I may have NF2, it does not have me”. Raising funds was our driving force and we felt extremely positive about being able to give something back so that others can enjoy Special Days just as I did.

Just a few weeks before we set off on our challenge, I received some sad news, from one of my best friends Laura. She had already had a very tough time with NF2 – living with total deafness, difficulties vocalising, and being wheelchair bound the majority of the time. Following an MRI scan she was told that some of the tumours in her brain had grown in such a way that they could not be removed and that pain management was her only option. Although this news was incredibly sad it occurred to me that I now had the perfect opportunity to help make some precious memories for Laura by getting in touch with Willow so she too could have a Special Day. My hike of Hadrian’s Wall and fundraising efforts suddenly escalated to being extremely personal and, thanks to everyone who supported Charlotte and me, we raised more than £2,500 in aid of Willow.

Shortly after this, Laura, her husband Darren, and I went to Colchester Zoo for Laura’s Special Day. Although Laura cannot smile in the conventional way due to facial paralysis, I know that her heart was shining brighter than the sun on her Special Day and I was so proud to have been a part of it – “it’s the best feeling in the world seeing someone smile and knowing that you were the reason why” – this is what Willow did for me and Laura, Thank you Willow.

To all the ‘challenge eventers’ out there, help make someone smile, please support Willow and sign-up for a challenge event."

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