A man died six days after he was diagnosed with a fatal disease which started off as pins and needles leaving his heartbroken wife and children behind.
Captain Rob Anders, 49, from Rendlesham, east Suffolk, first started showing symptoms in the autumn of 2020 while living in Portsmouth, having served for 30 years in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
His wife Phillipa Anders, 52, said her husband-of-18-years “didn’t stand a chance” against his diagnosis.
During daily calls home, the deputy commodore, second in charge of the entire fleet, complained to Phillipa of pins and needles.
He initially put the symptoms down to stress, but Phillipa started to worry when Rob’s pins and needles started impacting his arms and face in December.
Phillipa drove down to Portsmouth to take him to Ipswich A&E, where an MRI scan revealed a 7-9cm mass on his brain, which was confirmed as a terminal grade 4 glioblastoma the following day.
Rob was given 12-18 months to live due to the nature of the aggressive form of brain tumour.
The tumour causes weakness in the limbs or difficulty grasping, headaches, changes in vision, speech problems and seizures.
Rob was scheduled for urgent surgery the following week to remove a portion of the tumour before having palliative chemotherapy.
Phillipa said: “Rob just went into panic mode.
“He was looking for life insurance documents, pension stuff. All his focus was on where we’d be financially.
“I just went into coping mode. At that point, it was about doing everything possible to make Rob comfortable.
"Seeing this big, brilliant, capable person terrified and anxious and not being able to do routine things for himself, I just couldn’t think of myself. Just him.
“When I dropped Rob at the hospital, he was walking, talking.
“When I picked him up days later, he couldn’t walk and was in a wheelchair. He couldn’t even really speak and was so confused. He’d also lost a huge amount of weight in just days.”
She and their two children, Nell, 17, and Will, 16, spent the weekend all four together in bed, reading, watching television and films.
Then, the night before his scheduled surgery, Rob was thrashing around in bed beside Phillipa.
Initially, she thought it was worry about the operation, but she eventually called 111 who told her to take him to A&E straight away.
The whole family drove to the hospital, but the children were unable to come inside, so Rob told them he loved them and would see them soon.
Within half an hour of arriving at the hospital, Phillipa was beside her husband’s bed when he went an odd colour and made a strange noise. Medics rushed in, resuscitated him and Phillipa was sent home.
It was later confirmed a cyst even larger than the tumour was also present in the back of Rob’s brain, causing pressure, which had brought on a seizure.
Rob’s wife and children assumed Rob's surgery would proceed and they would see him again the next day.
But, that evening, the hospital called and asked Phillipa to return as soon as possible.
She arrived to the news that her husband had suffered another seizure lasting two hours and that, tragically, there was nothing more that could be done. At 1.30am on 22 December 2020, Phillipa sat beside her husband as he passed away.
Recalling the moment, she said: “It was almost beautiful.
"Rob was unconscious, but I was told he could hear me.
“So I sat beside him in a private room on this very quiet ward. No beeping, no machines, just us, a big cup of tea and a box of tissues.
“I told him how wonderful he was and truly believe he could hear me. I sat there holding his hand and then he was gone.”
Just six days after his diagnosis, Rob had passed away aged 49, in December 2021.
Moments after his death, Phillipa received a text from daughter Nell, who had not yet been told the severity of the situation. Both she and her brother had "felt" the moment their father had passed away.
Phillipa said: "I didn't speak to the kids whilst I was at the hospital. I saw the message from Nell but stuff in the hospital overtook anything else. I just remember my heart dropping."
Recalling the moment her dad passed away, Nell said: “I was in the shower at home trying to take my mind off things and my stomach just dropped out of nowhere.
“Will came in and he said he’d felt the same.
“I said, ‘Do you think Dad just died?’ and he said ‘Yeah.’ We text Mum and he had’.”
Nell, who was incredibly close to her dad, watched his alarming deterioration over less than a week.
She said: “One day Dad couldn’t walk and then the next day he couldn’t talk. He started falling over regularly, which he would turn it into a joke by commando crawling across the floor.
“We could all see that he was clearly embarrassed by what was happening and that really ate me up inside
"Conversations changed from Dad saying we would all be ok, to, 'You will all be OK’ just a couple of days later. He knew what was happening and that it didn’t look good.
“It was only after he died that we realised the regard everyone had for him.”
Rob’s death came just months after his remarkable achievements with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary were recognised by royalty.
He was awarded an OBE in March 2020 for leading a rescue mission following a hurricane in the Bahamas.
Phillipa said: “Rob hated being thought of as a hero. He said the OBE should have gone to the ship, not him.
"Still, he helped so many people in his life. Now, by sharing what happened to him, I’m hoping he can help even more."
Phillipa met Rob in 2002 and within a year they were married, and a year later, their daughter came.
Romantic Rob became known as "the flower man" at Phillipa’s work, as he would send huge bouquets of red roses every week during his months away at sea.
In August 2021, Rob’s standing in the military community was marked by a Committal of Ashes at Sea ceremony, where his remains were dropped off the coast of Weymouth.
Phillipa said: “Everyone was telling us how kind Rob had been.
“We had all these people we’d never met coming up to tell us how much Rob had touched their lives. It was a really beautiful day.”
After receiving invaluable support from The Brain Tumour Charity in the wake of Rob’s death, the family have raised over £18,000 for them.
According to The Brain Tumour Charity, around 12,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumours each year.
For more information, see thebraintumourcharity.org