Anna’s mum, Gudrun Llewellyn – who taught German at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge – was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer out of the blue in 2006, shortly after she retired. She died four months later, aged just 66.
Anna, 48, has been relentlessly fundraising for Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund since 2011 when she set herself the huge £50k target. Over the years, she has held dozens of events in her village of Coton, bringing the community together to have fun at themed discos and zumbathons and organising outdoor adventures with friends and local families.
These family fundraisers include climbing Ben Nevis in 2013 with parents and 16 children from seven local families and conquering the Yorkshire Three Peaks in 2016 with eight Coton families – a total height of over 2100 metres. Anna’s son Cosmo (aged 11 at the time) was the only member of the group to achieve the ‘ultimate challenge’ of completing all three Peaks within 12 hours, with younger brother Joshua (aged just 7 at the time) just missing out by a few minutes.
Anna has also taken on numerous personal challenges:
2011: Swimming the English Channel
Despite only learning the front crawl a few years before, Anna pulled together a relay team – dubbed the Pancrequatics – to complete the gruelling 21-mile swim from Dover to Calais in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, braving the 15 degree water and shoals of jellyfish.
2012: Tandem skydive
Although scared of heights, Anna organised a 10-strong team of friends to skydive and jumped first. It wasn’t her first skydive – that was back in the 1990s and she was so terrified she blanked everything out before the parachute opened and couldn’t remember a thing.
2017: Wing walk
Anna’s final personal challenge was a terrifying wing walk – something that she didn’t even tell her dad about until afterwards. Anna and a friend, Helena Kim, took turns in being strapped onto the top of a Stearman biplane at Damyns Hall Aerodrome in Upminster, climbing to heights of 500ft and flying at speeds of up to 130 mph.
Anna reached her fundraising target with a village disco on Saturday 03 November 2018 – an especially poignant weekend because as midnight struck it was 12 years to the day since her mum died.
She said: “I can’t quite believe it. There were many times I thought I’d never get there, but I’ve had support from so many friends and people locally over the years, and their generosity has been overwhelming.
“Pancreatic cancer robbed mum of being a grandma to Joshua and Cosmo and watching them grow up. The fundraising has helped my boys to feel connected to the wonderful grandma they didn’t get the chance to know.
“Knowing that the money raised will go towards developing new treatments for this terrible disease has been such a positive thing to do. I really wanted my boys to understand how when people pull together, they can make a real difference to the lives of others. They’ve loved being part of it, raising their own sponsorship money towards the target.”
Maggie Blanks, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, said: “The sheer determination and energy with which Anna has approached every challenge has been remarkable. To say we are grateful is a huge understatement: £50,000 is an enormous amount of money and we will use it to fund world-class research that can give future pancreatic cancer patients a better chance. We are so proud of Anna and her boys – and I know Gudrun would be too.”