I’ve lived in Tilehurst for 25 years and retired in 2016 after working in environmental research and in the mining sector. Retirement allowed time for a trip to New Zealand, walking and holidays in the UK, and supporting our four children and six grandchildren.

It also involved more medical checks, including regular blood tests for prostate cancer, which over a three year period were showing a very slow increase above normal values for my age.

Then came Covid. I held back in order to protect the NHS for more urgent needs. As Covid pressures eased towards the end of last year, I had another blood test. It showed a marked increase in the prostate specific antigen (PSA), the indicator of active prostate cancer.

Shock and alarm suddenly gripped our family, especially my wife, Penny, who had painful memories of her first husband’s death from asbestos cancer.

It was suggested that my PSA result was merely an analytical error – but the follow-up test showed it had risen even higher. Very quickly I was referred to the RBH Cancer Centre and had MRI, bone and CT scans, while the PSA numbers continued to rise.

By now the extended family was being informed and updated with progress, while the news spread quickly among our church friends. The difference in how people responded was quite marked. Some did not want to talk about it, or did not know what to say, or what they said boiled down to “Sorry, bad luck”. On the other hand, our medical friends were fascinated by the technicalities.

“This whole episode has naturally caused me to reflect upon my uncertain hold on life”

What was delightful was that with our children and among our Christian friends there was a sharing of our confidence in God’s loving providence and absolute control over everything, and of his delight to hear our prayers.

The RBH consultant oncologist told us that the cancer had probably spread to a lymph node and to a bone. Hormone therapy was started immediately, and planning began for a four week course of daily radiotherapy.  One of many providences was a ‘by chance’ bumping into a Christian pharmacist friend who had just completed an efficacy assessment for the Berkshire Care Quality Commission on the very hormone drugs I was taking. Her reassurances came at just the right time for both my wife and me.

While the radiotherapy has had unpleasant side effects, the lovely RBH staff made it almost a pleasure. I am now a month into recovering from it and am hopeful I shall be enjoying and supporting family and friends for a good few years. This whole episode has naturally caused me to reflect upon my uncertain hold on life, and the certainty of my death. Through it I have learnt to trust my loving Lord in new and deeper ways. If you would like to chat about any of the things mentioned above, please get in touch neil.runnalls@gmail.com