Bishop facing cancer battle
THE BISHOP of Swindon has spoken about his battle with cancer after he was diagnosed last month.
The Right Reverend Dr Lee Rayfield was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma at the end of August, and started his first cycle of chemotherapy on Tuesday.
In a letter to the diocese, he said: “When my lymph nodes were first being studied last year I remember sitting in an unnervingly empty waiting room before an ultrasound scan of my neck. It was a moment when I became acutely aware of my mortality.
“The thought ‘this could be the beginning of the end’ went though my mind and with it a definite cold shiver, a feeling of frailty, and a sense of the implications for those I love. I acknowledged those feelings to myself and to God, recognising that experiencing the reality of the situation was healthy and probably a gift.”
The diagnosis did not come as a complete surprise to the Bishop, who had a benign enlarged lymph node removed from behind his ear last summer.
He also discovered another enlarged lymph node in his neck, but this did not appear to be malignant at the time.
By June this year, it had increased in size and it was found to be cancerous.
Dr Rayfield said: “In the event, it is good news that I have Hodgkin Lymphoma rather than another tumour since Hodgkin’s is a better understood malignancy with an effective treatment regimen and good prognosis. That both of the enlarged nodes have been visible has also been a blessing – I had no other symptoms and have been in extremely good health of late so there was no indication of any underlying disease.”
The Bishop’s treatment will involve four cycles of chemotherapy and a short course of radiotherapy which are likely to cause fatigue and put him at risk of infection.
He expects that during this time he will be absent from public ministry.
He said: “Having three months of extended study leave scheduled to begin in mid-September is mostly another gift but I am naturally very disappointed (‘gutted’ would be more accurate!) to have to cancel all the arrangements I had put in place.
“I had planned to start my extended study leave by riding from John O’Groat’s to Lands End, raising as much money as possible for Leadership Development in Uganda in the process. I also had planned visits to a number of bishops and their dioceses to learn lessons for growth from their experiences. By God’s grace I pray these are now on hold rather than history.”
Responding to the news, the Bishop of Bristol, Mike Hill, said: “Lee has taken this news with characteristic faith and courage. He is to be commended for his witness at this time of uncertainty and suffering.
“We take courage from the fact that God has gifted doctors and nurses to take care of Lee. We also pray that God would directly put his hand on Lee and restore him to full health. We look forward in faith to his recovery.”
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