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Bishop of Swindon reports on his chemotherapy treatments: The Church of England Newspaper, October 4, 2013 p 4. October 15, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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In a letter to the Diocese of Bristol posted on his blog on 26 September 2013, the Bishop of Swindon, the Rt. Rev. Lee Rayfield has described the physic al and spiritual highs and lows of undergoing chemotherapy.

On 2 Sept Dr. Rayfield reported that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and would undergo a course of four cycles of chemotherapy in the Great Western Hospital in Swindon followed by a short course of radiotherapy in Oxford.

He noted that “although this is highly effective the drugs used have a number of side effects, with weakening of the immune system holding the most potential danger.”

In his 2 Sept letter, Dr. Rayfield noted he had “no idea” how the treatment “will leave me feeling as people respond differently. Fatigue is an obvious side effect and the risk of infection makes it necessary to absent myself from public ministry. The plan is to engage as much as I can from home and the office, following medical advice and ensuring I have plenty of rest and appropriate levels of exercise. As the treatment and its impact unfold I will be better placed to know what is wise, desirable and sustainable.”

In his letter of last week, the bishop reported the start of side effects. “One of my teeth has come loose and I have had to start some antibiotics. Also the vein in which the first two slugs of chemotherapy were delivered has become inflamed. Fortunately I have plenty of other good vessels so we can avoid using that one again.”

His illness had also given him an appreciation of Psalm 139:14. “I praise you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made”

“It may sound strange but illness is increasing my appreciation of the psalmist’s words,” he said.

“The human body is a marvel of homeostasis with a myriad of regulatory feedback mechanisms ensuring that everything works in harmony; any imbalance is corrected and stabilised. The cocktail of cytotoxic drugs used to blast my Lymphoma has been the equivalent of a tsunami hitting Littlehampton beach and the physicians have had to step in to try and dampen down the shock waves. They are doing brilliantly but having to take manual control reveals just how beautifully tuned the normal systems is.”

The bishop also offered thanks for the cards and notes of prayer and support he had received as “people have said some things to me which have helped me to see how much I am loved and appreciated and this has been both humbling and uplifting.”

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