A married couple separated for five years fell in love again as he battled cancer in hospital – and now he’s in remission and they’re back together.
Tracey Bisdee, 50, spent days talking to Neal, 54, while he lay in intensive care as an aggressive form of blood cancer attacked his body.
Neal was drugged up with morphine and unresponsive but the mum-of-four sat by his hospital bedside every day – even though their marriage had broken down in 2010.
She realised that she still loved her husband when doctors told her THREE TIMES that he was not going to make it, but clung on to hope that he might still pull through – and he did.
“We separated in 2009 after 15 years of marriage because we had a lot of problems and we grew apart, but we stayed friends for the sake of our daughters,” said Tracey, of Shipham, Somerset.
“When I was told Neal had cancer and that he could die I realised that I was going to lose somebody who was the important to me. That was when it really hit home.
“It was a case of we had to try and get him through it so that we could have another chance.”
Lorry driver Neal first started feeling under the weather in December, when he went to his doctor complaining of a chest infection and was sent for an x-ray, which came back clear.
The family dismissed his illness as ‘man flu’ and told him to deal with it, but when Neal cancelled a trip to see his football team, Bristol City, play at Wembley, they realised it was serious.
The next day, Tracey took him into hospital and demanded scans that revealed he had a mass around his windpipe that was squeezing it shut, which was caused by a type of blood cancer.
He was taken in for an operation to establish what was causing the blockage and doctors put a stent down his windpipe, but it collapsed in on itself due to the size of the tumour.
Neal was left battling for his life in intensive care and was put on life support for the following two days – but the nightmare was just beginning.
“During the night, all the drugs made him delirious and he pulled all his tubes out,” said Tracey.
“So that was when we were told he wasn’t going to make it – it was too serious.”
At 3am, Tracey and the family received a phone call to tell them that 12 consultants had been rushed to his bedside to try to save Neal and had put him into an induced coma.
Over the next three days, Tracey and her daughters Jemma, 14, Cerys, 15, Chloe, 21, and Holly, 23, were told twice more that he was going to die.
Tracey said: “It was really touch and go. Being told he was going to die was really surreal.
“They told us it wasn’t looking good and they didn’t think he’d make it through, but they asked us if he would want to carry on fighting and we said yes, absolutely.”
The family was told that if his kidneys started failing, it was a cut-off point and doctors would start removing life support as his organs would be shutting down.
But every day Tracey visited Neal in the hope that his condition would improve and spent hours speaking to him as he lay semi-conscious.
“In between the morphine, Tracey said something to me,” said Neal.
“She didn’t know if I’d be able to hear, but I remember her saying that they couldn’t do this by themselves.
“It gives you something to focus on. After that point, I knew I was going to come through. I was never going to give up.”
Incredibly, Neal began to make a recovery and started chemotherapy to target the cancer.
He is now in remission and back home with Tracey and their girls. He will find out in a few months whether he will need radiotherapy.
“Neal being unwell made us realise that we were good together, and we are a good family,” said Tracey.
“When Neal came out of the coma he felt the same way about me. He couldn’t talk but he was writing and expressing the same things.
“At first, we were both too nervous to say it because we didn’t know how the other one felt. We skirted around it a bit.
“But eventually we plucked up the courage, and it’s even better now that it was before.
“We are meant to be together as a family. It is not a fairy tale – it’s been difficult and we still have a lot to go through, but it’s nice being back as a family.
“All of this has brought us back together.”
“You could tell that they still loved each other but they just wouldn’t admit it to each other. They were too stubborn,” added teenage daughter Cerys.
“If we weren’t there for Dad, who knows if he would have got through it? Family makes all the difference.”