Debra McNaughton was diagnosed with cancer in April 2012. Doctors initially suspected the early stages of ovarian cancer, but a during an operation to perform a full hysterectomy it was noted that the cancer had spread throughout Debra’s abdomen. Pathology results confirmed that the cancer had in fact originated from the appendix. Debra was advised that her condition was terminal and that she had only 50% chance of surviving the next 2 years.
Being only 37 years of age and having a young family, Debra started researching her condition and stumbled across a Facebook support group called PMP Appendix Cancer, where she found a number of patients with similar diagnosis. The patients had between them a wealth of knowledge and advised Debra to go to one of the two specialist centres in the UK based in Basingstoke or the Christie in Manchester. The Christie took Debra on as a patient and 4 weeks later she underwent a 14 hour operation followed by 6 months of intensive chemotherapy.
Debra was given the all clear in April 2013 and was put onto 3 monthly routine CT scans. Debra was just in the process of rebuilding her life and had secured employment to start in January 2014 when she received the dreaded phone call from her GP to discuss her recent scan results. Debra’s world fell apart when she was given the devastating news that the cancer had returned. Referred immediately to the specialists in Manchester, it was confirmed that surgery was not an option and chemotherapy was the only chance to buy her a little time.
Debra wasted no time in researching further options and discovered 3 top specialist on the Continent. Her scans have now been sent off to specialists in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany in the hope that further surgery will be offered, this is her only chance of survival. Without this surgery Debra has only months to live.
Debra is a mother to 3 beautiful children, Connor 17, Courtney 16 and Oliver 2. This life saving surgery is her only chance to see her children grow up and a chance for them to have their mummy.
M/A is the most common cancer of the appendix, it accounts for about 37% of all appendix cancers. It is a high-grade cancerous tumour produces mucous, but also more commonly invades soft tissues and organs. An M/A tumour may also grow faster and is more likely to metastasize (spread) to the lymph nodes, liver and lung than other types.
They say that when you get cancer, your family get cancer with you.
In the case of Anna Verrico, the Isle of Axholme and her family and friends shared her diagnosis. Anna was a mum to two young children, Alessandro (1) and Lucia (3), who were, quite literally, her reason for living. Her legacy leaves a lasting impact on all who met her or were affected enough by her situation to join ‘TeamVerrico’ to raise funds for potentially life saving treatment.
Anna Marie Verrico was born on 15 April 1977 in Lincoln, Lincolnshire. She was the daughter of Paul King, a window cleaner, and Pat, a housewife. She is survived by her older brother, Steven.
Her brother, mother and father had an enormous influence on the principles that she adopted as important in her life. Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, Anna had a strong moral compass. From the age of 5, she would speak on the platform at the local Kingdom Hall, rehearsing Bible verses with her tiny friends. Anna practiced what she preached and was known as someone who would actively seek out situations to help others. At school, she was competitive and excelled at athletics, being crowned the Lincolnshire Multi Event Champion aged 13 with a points record that still stands 23 years later. Despite a clear academic skill set, Anna initially trained as a reflexologist, preferring to help people in the community by taking part in volunteer work for 25 hours a week from the age of 17 than getting too bogged down with secular activities.
On 16 July 1995, boy met girl – Anna met Paul. Within a year, they were married. Speaking of that initial contact, Reuben Wilson a friend of Paul who was present at the time, stated, “I was there the night Paul and Anna met. Never seen love at first sight happen in front of me since. She was amazing. Never known a more devoted couple”.
Anna and Paul initially lived in a flat above a chemist’s shop on Ashby High Street in Scunthorpe. They cleaned windows for a living – Anna would be out in all weathers, racing Paul with her ladder to clean the most/fastest/best. She brought this competitive edge to everything she did. Another friend, Matt Lynaugh, put it this way, “Anna was one in a million, nothing fazed her. I remember when they took me to Cornwall on holiday in their caravan. Paul said ‘we're off to the beach today Matt’, got there and Anna grabs a surfboard and wetsuit and goes straight into the sea! No fear!” – it was that attitude that endeared her to so many in recent times. Paul fondly recalled that the only complaint he ever received in relation to Anna’s work was on the army camp at Hemswell, where the Army wives objected to having their properties cleaned by a beautiful young woman.
In 1998 Paul and Anna decided that window cleaning was not a long term financial endeavour, despite running a successful company at the time. Anna went to College to learn accountancy – completing the AAT, then CIMA. Sally-Ann Hackett taught her on that course and remarked “Anna was in one of my first classes at Grimsby College, as it was then. She was incredibly clever; a very fast learner, who always worked to the highest standard and put in 100% in all classes. Not surprisingly she passed with flying colours. It was a pleasure to have Anna in my classes and an even greater pleasure to keep in touch with her after she completed her course. She would often come back and talk to my students about progression in the industry and inspire them.” Anna qualified in 2003 and worked mainly at the food giant Bakkavor over this period at sites in Barton (which burned down) and Scunthorpe (which Anna closed when the recession hit. Anna was a self described ‘foodie’ and the opportunity to work in a garlic bread factory was almost a dream job. She was ambitious and driven, and was working until her death as the Financial Controller of a Bakkavor fresh fruit business, a position she had striven to achieve.
Once Anna had left the window cleaning business, she desperately wanted Paul to get out too. She encouraged Paul to go to university, which he did, qualifying with a law degree at the same time as his wife passed her accountancy exams. Anna supported Paul to attain his own dreams and wholeheartedly backed him to join the law firm of his choice and do the job he always wanted with Eversheds. She did this because she wanted to give Paul an environment to thrive and be happy. For 7 years the duo worked hard and played hard. Anna’s favourite place in the world was Lindos, Rhodes which was her ‘happy place’; she would always speak fondly of her first visit and how the breathtaking beauty of the village nestling in the bay caught in her throat and made her cry. Anna loved travelling, visiting India, Europe, America, Africa and Australia over that period. Her favourite hobby was deep sea diving which she actively sought out on her travels. It says something of her character that her last ‘proper’ dive was before the children in Mexico and involved 10 bull sharks and no protective cage.
Anna passionately believed that all humanity would be better if people obeyed the golden rule ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’. She was an epic charity fund raiser, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge to support a deaf school in Doncaster and abseiling down the sky scraper at Bridgewater Place, Leeds, to raise money for Macmillan. Her friends fondly remember “conversations over coffee have always been a true source of strength, love and gentleness. Anna would always provide a thoughtful and totally invaluable insight into any situation”. Since her death, Paul has handed out a dozen cards which Anna had written but not had chance to send to those who had supported her recent fight.
Anna had been undecided about children until her early thirties, but after Lucia was born in February 2010, her focus completely shifted. Anna’s natural competitive edge was engaged and she determined to be the best mum in the world, ever. Gina Ford’s opinion became a mainstay of conversation. Baby L was absolutely in routine, even when that meant self denial. Things were only exacerbated following the birth of little Alessandro in May 2012. Anna would absolutely always put the children above her own well being. There was a strict no television rule during the day, as Anna had read an article in Psychology Today which suggested that TV could adversely affect the developing baby brain. All baby food was grown organically and then hand blended to make delicious (!) healthy mush. When Anna was first diagnosed with cancer, she insisted on having chemotherapy at home so that she could still read the children a bedtime story after a chemical infusion.
Anna had always been a fit and healthy girl. She often laughed that she had not taken any sick days from work in the last decade and scorned the common cold as a reason for incapacity. It therefore came as a total shock when she was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer in October 2012. Despite an operation which suggested that the cancer had been removed and six cycles of chemotherapy, the cancer had not been defeated. In fact, all through the beautiful summer of 2013, it was actually cutting a bloody path through her body. During that period, Anna had been training for the Isle of Axholme half marathon and had enlisted the help of a dozen friends to raise money for cancer research. When the horrendous news of her terminal condition was known, Anna resolved to complete what she had started. Refusing to use a mobility scooter or a buggy, instead she prevailed on the kind organisers of the half marathon to activate a ‘fun run’ which Anna completed in order to fulfil her money raising obligations.
Determined to fight the disease, Anna and Paul searched high and low for treatment options, picking the best and trusting the best. The long shot hope offered by Professor Stebbing engaged the family and it engaged you. In the intervening 8 weeks, event after event was considered, supported and delivered by TeamVerrico to provide for her. Anna attended everything or sent the children to support it whenever possible; she was moved that so many people actually cared about her situation. Her courage and dignity, so apparent at the run on 29 September or on the pitch at Glanford Park just 3 days before she died, speak volumes for the woman. Anna had no intention of dying in the early hours of 20 November 2013 - she was a fighter and her body gave up before her spirit.
Few people have attracted such strength of feeling by so many in such a short time. Her supporters hail her for demonstrating grit in the face of adversity; for ultimate devotion to her family; and, for facing a bitter enemy mostly without pain medication, as she did not want to have her mind dulled when her babies needed her. She was, above all, that rare thing, a good woman of strong conviction; beautiful in spirit as well as body.
Anna never lost at anything – whether that was boxercise, football, diving, work or play. Her firm belief, despite overwhelming contrary opinion, was that metastatic, aggressive triple negative breast cancer was a cursed inconvenience in that it reduced her mobility, but it was not going to beat her. Her family and friends are resolved that Anna did not lose her fight with the disease; she will serve as the inspiration to find a solution to it.
Anna Verrico, a true fighter, whose heart stopped beating on Wednesday 20 November 2013 and whose legacy is the inspiration for all that we do.