How true the words of Robert Burns are (or at least the English translation of his poem ‘To a mouse’) “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.


I had a nice clear plan of work and family commitments to take me up to my retirement at the end of August, at which point there would be parties and cream teas and a farewell service, after which I would slip into the blissful state of being in charge of my own diary.  However, life has thrown me a curve ball (an image less familiar to Robert Burns) and plans have had to change.


Back in September I noticed a very slight swelling in my neck.  I was not overly concerned but thought it best to be on the safe side and go to the Doctor.  The Doctor thought it was nothing of consequence but sent me for some tests just to be on the safe side.  Well the safe side turned out to be the right side as at the end of February I was diagnosed as having a Lymphoma – cancer of the lymphatic, or immune system.  The exact form of lymphoma is not yet known so I am still being treated as a pincushion and having many tests.  A full diagnosis should be made in early April after which treatment can be scheduled.


Just as an aside, there is a lesson here for all those people (usually men) who don’t want to bother the doctor – if you notice a change in your body or have a problem (no matter how insignificant you think it might be) go and get yourself checked.  It’s better to waste the Doctor’s time with something that isn’t a problem than let something small turn into a big problem!


I have been told I will have to have Chemotherapy, the only treatment for Lymphoma, which kills off the white blood cells in the immune system.  This means that during the time of treatment and in the recovery period afterward I will be very susceptible to infections and will have to limit my contact with people, especially people who have a cold or might be brewing some form of infection.  For this reason I will have to finish work much earlier than planned.  So as not to leave the church in a state of uncertainty I thought it best to have a clear finish date, after which I will be on annual leave then sick leave.  This is why I will be finishing (or by the time you read this will have finished) work on 31 March.


All the information I have been given says that Chemotherapy for Lymphoma can make a person very ill but the success rate for treatment is very high.  So, I am positive about the long-term future, but a bit apprehensive about the short-term period of treatment.


There are so many things I planned to say and do over the next 5 months, so many stories to tell about my experiences in ministry (did I ever tell you about the groom who passed out in the middle of his marriage service and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance – we did get him back just in time to finish the marriage).  I will have to content myself with telling a few stories in the official leaving service, to be held at Christ Church, in the evening on Sunday 14 April.


Over the next few months I will continue to live in the manse and may need support and help with practical things, like transport.  I hope I can call for help if and when it is needed.


For now I just want to say thank you for the friendship that you have shown to me during my time at Christ Church.  It has been a privilege to be a part of your church family for the past seven and a half years, to share in your joys and sorrows and to travel the journey of faith with you.  It has been a good place to serve and I will always treasure my time in Uxbridge.

Best wishes

Nick Skelding 

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