“Just six weeks after we got together, Neal was diagnosed with a glioblastoma. He said I could leave him, but I wasn’t going anywhere. He was the love of my life.”
Watching Saturday’s episode of Casualty when Glen reveals he has a glioblastoma and tells new girlfriend, nurse Robyn, it’s not fair on her to stay with him, struck a chord with Sara Challice.
Instead of enjoying the early carefree days of a new romance, she and Neal too had to cope with the devastating news that he had a glioblastoma.
“Neal was diagnosed only six weeks after we started going out in 2002. Lying in his hospital bed awaiting surgery, he said; ‘You don’t have to stay with me.’
“I told him not to worry because I’d be there for him and to focus on getting better. He was in remission for a year after chemo and radiotherapy.
“But, a few months after Neal proposed, the tumour came back. His oncologist suggested we move our wedding day forward. That was the first time I saw Neal cry.
“But I told him we’d make the most of the time we had left. And we did.
“Our wedding day, on September 18 2014, was full of joy and a celebration of our life together. Knowing we only had limited time, I felt our love deepen immensely.
“As Neal’s health deteriorated, especially when he was left severely disabled after a stroke, at times I felt more like his mum than his wife. It was painful watching the strong, larger-than-life man I fell in love with suffering, but I know the power of our love kept him going.
“Every time he went away for a week’s respite care, his condition seemed to worsen. It felt like he was giving up. But when I got him home again, he always improved with my hugs and kisses every day and emotional support.
“When Neal died in September last year, although he’d been very ill for so long, it still came as a shock. But his love and spending the past 13 years as his carer has taught me so much and shaped the person I am today.
“I miss my wonderful husband dreadfully but the love we shared – and I still feel – makes me positive about facing the future.”