BBC film features story of Luton man whose beloved wife died of leukaemia

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“She was the best thing to ever happen to me. I miss her dearly.”

A man from Luton has opened up about his heartbreak after losing his wife of 26 years to leukaemia, three months after her diagnosis.

John Neilson, 73, has shared his story in a BBC film, which premieres this Sunday (February 25).

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John, a former driving instructor, had been married to Beverley for 26 years when she was taken to Luton and Dunstable Hospital with a suspected urine infection in June 2021. Days later, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

Beverley and John in 1993. Picture: John NeilsonBeverley and John in 1993. Picture: John Neilson
Beverley and John in 1993. Picture: John Neilson

John said: “They said she had a water infection – that was on the Tuesday, by the Friday was full-blown leukaemia. That was quite a bombshell. They said not to worry as they had caught it early and it was treatable. That wasn't the case at all.”

Beverley was 61 when she died, 12 weeks after diagnosis.

John said: “She was the love of my life, the best thing to ever happen to me. I miss her every day, I miss her dearly.”

While looking on the internet for more information about the blood cancer, John came across Worcester-based charity Leukaemia Care. He explained: “I rang their helpline, and there was a very helpful lady called Fiona. They really helped me no end and emotionally, it was very supportive and they kept my sanity as well, which was most important.”

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John says he misses his wife everyday. Picture: Leukaemia CareJohn says he misses his wife everyday. Picture: Leukaemia Care
John says he misses his wife everyday. Picture: Leukaemia Care

Thanks to the charity, John received a grant from The Leukaemia Care Counselling Fund which allowed him to have six counselling sessions with a therapist. He said: “They helped to sort me out, and were very caring and made sure my welfare was taken care of.

John’s story will form part of the BBC’s Lifeline Appeal film for Leukaemia Care, due to be shown on BBC1 this Sunday, February 25 at 1.50pm.

John added: “I am so grateful for the help I have received from Leukaemia Care. Without it, I would be further down a very black hole. Two years on from losing Beverley, I’m taking one day at a time, but at least I can now hold a conversation without welling up.

“This is in honour of my darling Beverley, I think she'd be quite proud that her passing would actually do some good.”

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The film will be presented by former Strictly Come Dancing Judge Dame Arlene Phillips who lost her mum to leukaemia when she was 15.

Arlene said: “I’m honoured to be supporting this appeal for Leukaemia Care, having lost my wonderful, loving mum to leukaemia when she was just 43. I know only too well the pain caused by a leukaemia diagnosis and want families like mine to receive the best possible diagnosis, information, advice, treatment and support.”

Leukaemia Care’s Interim CEO, Nicole Scully said: “We are so pleased that the BBC have chosen to illustrate the valuable work we do in supporting leukaemia patients and their families. The stories featured in the film show just how important the charity’s services are in getting people the right support.

“We hope this film will help generate much-needed funds so that we can continue to help as many people as possible going forward.”

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