My husband accused me of cheating and then tried to kill him – but the reality was appalling
WHEN Sally Liddle’s partner was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma and had just 18 months to live, her world fell apart.
As she mourned the future she would lose with her partner of almost nine years, Tony Russo, 57, she never expected the impact the devastating diagnosis would have on their relationship.
Within months, Sally, 33, saw the man she loved drastically change from kind, thoughtful and generous to jealous, angry and paranoid – so much so that he even accused her of trying to kill him.
Sally says, “When Tony walked into a room, you knew he was there.
“He was so spontaneous and loved life. He wouldn’t have a bad day, he just wouldn’t let it.
“He was an amazing person, romantic and so thoughtful. We really were best friends, but he ended up being a completely different person.”
Art consultant Sally met Tony, an artist whose work was once bought by Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow, at a gallery and they instantly bonded over their shared passion.
Despite their 24-year age difference, Tony was Sally’s “soul mate” and they planned a happy future together.
But in February 2019, the couple received the devastating news that Tony, father of Saffy, 24, and Oscar, 27, from a previous relationship, had an incurable brain tumor — the very cancer that killed his father just years earlier.
Sally says: “Tony was really brilliant. I think we pulled through as a family because Tony pulled through.
“He accepted it straight away and was just super positive.”
Tony, who took up drawing at a young age to help cope with his dyslexia and autism, was diagnosed with glioblastoma – the deadly type of brain cancer that killed The Wanted star Tom Parker in 2022 – after suffering a stroke in bed massive seizure had failure.
Sally recalls, “It was about 4:30 in the morning and he just woke up and started screaming.
“I thought he saw a spider because he hated spiders and when I saw him I thought he was having a stroke.
“We went to the hospital and they did a CT scan and that’s when the doctor told us there was something in his brain that shouldn’t be there.
“I think he knew exactly what it was straight away.”
Within three days, Tony underwent surgery at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) in London, but there was only a limited amount of the tumor they could remove.
Sally says: “They got quite a bit of it, which was lucky as some of them aren’t functional, but they can never get everything.
“You can’t get all the tiny cancer cells and that’s what eventually grows back.”
Tony was given a year and a half prognosis to live, but a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy bought him particularly valuable months with Sally and his children.
In October 2020 there appeared to be no signs of the tumor on a standard scan, but just three months later, after Christmas, he was told he had returned – and was already 10cm tall.
Sally says: “We were told that regrowth takes about six months and then it got really difficult.
“The doctors said the tumor could grow up to two percent a day, which is scary.
“Tony previously had normal side effects from his treatment, but where that regrowth sat on his brain, his behavior changed drastically.
“He had mood swings and got quite paranoid. He didn’t like it when I dated because he was afraid I would date someone else.
“He just wasn’t himself after that. It was horrible because he wasn’t our rock anymore, he went downhill and changed very quickly.”
Things got really bad for the couple when Tony accused Sally of trying to kill him – an accusation that broke her heart.
She says: “He was so paranoid that I didn’t give him the right medication.
“He would double-check them himself and then ask other people to double-check.
“One day he asked if I was trying to kill him and then that was it, he thought it was me.
“In the end, the GP and his hospice caregivers had to intervene because the allegations he made – despite being so false – were very serious.
“I had to log every drop of morphine and every pill I gave him – there were many forms and they were checked every time the doctor or nurse came in.
“They checked and counted the medicines in the house and made sure everything was there.
“I felt absolutely terrible. We’ve been through so much.
“I could see it was the tumor that was making Tony think that way and as upsetting as that was I had to hold on to it.
“But it made everything really difficult because ultimately I was just trying to take care of him and I had his best interests at heart.”
LOOKING FOR HOPE
The couple turned to homeopathy and Chinese medicine in hopes that this might help slow the tumor’s growth, and Sally joined Tony in following a sugar-free and vegan diet.
But the combination of steroids and chemotherapy put Tony in 24th place and his size made it difficult for Sally to care for him.
She says: “Me and Tony were best friends but I lost my best friend from the minute he was diagnosed.
“When the tumor came back, it only got worse. I have been his 24/7 caretaker for the past six months.
“I was his friend, I wasn’t his partner. We didn’t sleep together, we couldn’t go out, we couldn’t do anything together.
“We were just sitting in a room together when he got worse. It was terrible.
“He got so heavy I couldn’t lift him and we both ended up with beds in our living room. I only slept an hour or two a night at most.”
Sally has praised the nurses at St Francis Hospice in Berkhamsted for the care she and Tony have shown over his final months.
She is now working with the hospice to provide more support for caregivers who are going through a similar experience to hers.
She says: “There needs to be more help and support for carers. They’ll never go through what their loved ones are, but it’s so incredibly hard.
“You can never be ready to see someone die, but the St. Francis nurses prepared me and told me what to look out for.
“I was so scared and when I knew it was coming I didn’t think I knew what to do but something happened and I knew I had to be strong for Tony.
“He was incredible. He’s been struggling throughout his illness but I felt like the last five days with us, he’s been struggling like never before. He didn’t want to let go.”
On June 15, 2022, Tony tragically passed away at 2:30 a.m.
Sally says: “I didn’t want him to leave us, but I didn’t want him to suffer any more.
“He was in pain and because of his size, the amount of morphine he was given was insufficient.
“It might sound strange to some people, but Tony’s last hours were so beautiful.
“He loved music, so we listened to Kanye [West] and his children, his sisters and I talked about the good times and laughed.
“We all said goodnight to him and then I got into bed next to him.
“Around midnight I could hear his breath changing and I knew it was about time, then he just slipped away. In the end it was peaceful.”
Sally has great admiration for Kelsey Parker, the widow of The Wanted singer Tom, who died of the same aggressive cancer on March 30 last year.
Like Kelsey, she would like more research on brain tumors, their causes and treatments.
Sally says: “She is amazing. I can understand some of what she’s been going through since our stories sound similar, but I can’t believe she had to deal with what she has while also having two young children.
“This type of brain tumor is one of the leading causes of death in people under the age of 40 and often affects more men than women.
“We need to understand why this is so, what causes it and how it can be cured.
“The survival rate is not very high and most people die within 18 months of diagnosis.
“In America you get scanned if you have a family history or a headache, but it’s not always done right here.
“Kelsey is using her platform to raise awareness and that is fantastic. I share my story so I can do the same. It’s important that we talk about it.”
March was a special month for Sally and Tony’s children as not only was it Brain Tumor Awareness Month, but March 31st would have been Tony’s 58th birthday.
On April 6th, Sally will be showcasing Tony’s artwork under his professional name, Stony, to help raise vital funds The Brain Cancer Charity.
She says: “Tony had to stop painting in his final months, but he sketched to the point where he couldn’t hold a pen.
“He drew at appointments, during treatments, that was his passion.
“It bothered him, but it was his way of expressing himself.
“Now when I read his art from that time, I think ‘Wow’. Some of them are very sad, but there are some I can see that he was amazingly strong.
“Tony will live on not only through his children, but also through his art.”
Some of Tony’s artwork can be seen at the Time art exhibition from 6th to 15th April at the Business Design Center in London. For more information visit www.quantusgallery.com.
https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/health/10472343/brain-tumour-killing-husband-tom-parker/ My husband accused me of cheating and then tried to kill him – but the reality was appalling