Annabel Nnochiri had beaten cancer once before.
It was 2010 and the married mother-of-two from North London successfully beat breast cancer. She thought the worst was over.
Two years later in 2012, after losing both of her parents in car crash, Annabel developed a pain in her leg and later that year “couldn’t bear it”.
“The breast cancer had metastasised into my bones,” she told the Mirror.
Annabel, now 56, began to think about how she wanted to live the time she had left. She began thinking of all the things she wanted to do. On the top of that list was leaving her husband of 28 years.
“I’d talk with others for a long while about ending my marriage,” she said.
Annabel shows off her new hair colour (left) and out with friends (right). Image: Instagram
It was about how she wanted to live the rest of her life, and she knew she had to leave her old life behind and “spread her wings”, the Mirror reports.
“I made a bucket list and the first thing was to leave my husband. I had a good life but just felt completely trapped and wanted to break free. Knowing I had a short time to go I knew I couldn’t live the rest of my life just being a housewife.”
So she started planning. It took six months.
Firstly, Annabel asked her children aged 16 and 19 for permission to leave their father.
“I asked my children and they both agreed I would be happier if I went and did my own thing.” The North London mum purchased a flat with inheritance money without her husband’s knowledge.
“I planned it for six months, buying the flat without telling my husband. When I told him he thought it was just a phase and that I would go back to him.”
She never went back. Her ex-husband has since repartnered and he and Annabel have a good relationship.
Annabel has spent the past few months travelling the world and doing all the things she always wanted to do. She’s an artist and her Instagram page is filled with gorgeous paintings.
A teacher by trade, she now spends time between travels teaching children about art.
Still, the cancer grows, and treatments are needed. Annabel said she spends much of her time in hospital counselling fellow cancer patients, comforting them and assuring them.
“I didn’t leave to be with someone else but I have had a very happy love life since then – and he has found someone else and is happy too.”
Annabel said she would never have left her marriage if her children hadn’t supported her. “If they had not agreed I wouldn’t have done it, but they both said I would be happier if I left.”
Art teacher Annabel teaching tie dye in April, 2016. Image: Instagram
She started salsa classes and stopped worrying what other people thought of her. “Now I just don’t care because of the cancer. My children are far happier and we are all closer.”
The mother-of-two said her daughter considers her to be a her role model, which is the highest compliment a child can pay to a parent.
It’s been five years since Annabel was given two-and-a-half years to live, so she’s doing something right!
The brave mum says cancer has made her a better person. “If I hadn’t had the cancer I would have been a dull person. But because of it I’ve become a much braver, naughty older woman.”
Annabel is part of an inspiring documentary called A Time to Live by award-making film-maker Sue Bourne in which she talks to 12 women diagnosed with terminal illnesses about how they are embracing their remaining time.