Dear Friends

I am writing this in the middle of September, in a week that has brought blisteringly high temperatures to the south, pleasant late summer sun to the north-west, while torrential rain and storms around the country remind us that autumn is approaching.  The seasons seemed much less complicated when I was a child!  I suspect it wasn’t sunny every day of the summer, it just seems that way looking back.

Just as the weather can take us by surprise, we can be taken aback when something happens in our lives that changes our normal pattern, and that can be disconcerting and unsettling.  For me it happened last March, when a routine mammogram revealed I had breast cancer, and I was told I needed an operation to remove the lump.  A few weeks’ inconvenience?  Yes, I could cope with that; I would be back working full-time in no time at all. 

Discovering after the operation that I would need to have chemotherapy for four months, followed by a further op and radiotherapy taking me close to the end of the year, changed the picture again.  I realised that I had to accept that this was to be a long process; there are no short cuts.  By the time this magazine is printed, I will hopefully have come to the end of the chemo stage, which is something I am really looking forward to.  The Churchill Unit in the Royal Bolton Hospital, where I am receiving treatment, has a large bell hanging on the wall, and this is rung by patients as they complete their last treatment, accompanied by applause and cheers from everyone else!

2016 is not working out as I had envisaged, but I’m getting there. I’ve been fortunate not to have had too many side-effects, but I have had to accept that life has had to become very different while treatment is happening. 

One of my favourite hymns is Great is thy faithfulness, which has become more special to me in these last few months.  It speaks of God’s unchanging and faithful love; seen in nature, in the cycle of the seasons, but also in his care of us.  All those responsible for my treatment have been amazing.  I have been touched and inspired by emails, cards, phone calls, flowers, and visits.  I have at times felt God’s presence so tangibly, never more so than the four days I spent in hospital with zero immunity and suspected infection in June, and I know it was because I was being prayed for faithfully by many good friends.  In Matthew Ch 28 Jesus promised those who follow him that he would never leave them, and this is a promise to cling to when life is at its toughest, when the way forward isn’t clear, or when our progress is slower than we would want. 

Above all, God tells us not to be afraid.  Two cards that I received had this verse from Isaiah 41 v 10:  “Fear not, for I am with you.  Be not dismayed, for I am your God.”

So, whatever is hard for you, or someone you love, at the moment, trust God.  He is faithful.  He won’t leave you, and he will send the help you need to get by.  He promises:

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.

Strength for today, and bright hopes for tomorrow,

blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Great is his faithfulness indeed!

Sister Dorothy Needham CA