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Kate Strickland-Wright's address to Edinburgh, 2019

My thanks to Mr Andrew Cassidy for my invitation and warm welcome here today. Pause for Hope was established in 1999 under the wisdom and direction of Professor Ray Donnelly, surgeon and founder of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. I am now blessed to work for both charities, one as their National Development Officer and the other as their Strategic Partnership Manager. I met professor Donnelly in early 2018 after the publication of my book – A Prayer Companion through Cancer which I had written at the request of a dear friend in 2016 and to whom it is dedicated. What do I know about cancer? Cancer doesn’t just invade physically, it invades all of our lives and its effect on us emotionally and spiritually feeds on our fear. When we are placed in a situation of cancer, be it ourselves, a loved one or colleague we all feel fear. This fear can be debilitating and swipe us off our feet but it is at our weakest that I believe we are in the strongest position to pray. From my time spent with loved ones on their cancer journeys, to my time working at a hospice and now with my work for the two charities I have learnt the following. Firstly dialogue with God, our Father and Creator, is our strength. Even at times of despair, or doubt and diminished faith, our prayers, our conversations with our Heavenly Father are essential. Honest, open, and at times, gritty and difficult prayer. As Jesus suffered on the cross he felt abandonment, as a human made of flesh he knew our weakness and we know from Matthew and Mark that he called to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God never left Jesus because of this questioning, He never rallied against this human doubt and questioning as we know from the lessons of the scriptures. We also know that Jesus surrendered himself to God’s will and was carried to His eternal home and rose in glory. I believe dialogue, all dialogue, with our Father is our duty in all trials. Jesus taught us this. Secondly, God equips us. He equips us as people in so many ways. He equips the nurse to care for the patient, he equips the surgeon and consultant to create the best care pathways and he equips the researchers and scientists as they make strides in treatment options. Despite negative media we know that in England one year survival has increased from 62% in 2001 and 72.8% in 2016, however there is still much more to do, more support to be offered by charities, more research to be commissioned and the broader need for less stigma and more conversation about all types of cancer. Targeted therapies and immunotherapies are transforming treatment and cancer survival rates are at a record high in addition to the NHS long term plan which is focussed on increasing early detection rates of cancers, which they estimate will save 55,000 lives a year. I know the importance of early detection through my own work for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation as we support various CCGs with their lung health check programme. But God equips is further than this… God gives us hope. We know this from Hebrews when Sarah is gifted a child for her patience and faithfulness and we learn from Isiah “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Hope is one of the greatest Christian values and virtues and a gift to feast upon, swim in, drink from and cling to. Hope is powerful beyond all measure and a promise God made to us, His children, that by our faithfulness we are never alone, we are never forgotten and we are loved and protected by Him in every trial. As Christians we belong to Christ, he created us and walks before us into the unknown and so we turn to him and offer up our sufferings in prayer and receive his blessed assurance as told in Isiah: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” And so in conclusion as Maya Angelou, celebrated writer and poet says – “Hope and fear cannot exist in the same space. Invite one to stay.” It is our duty and indeed our greatest opportunity to offer up our trials in the hope of healing and salvation through our prayers to God and we will in turn receive His hope. Each day is a new day, and no matter how dark a dawn can be, hope is the flicker of light that illuminates through the gap in the curtains of each new morning, it illuminates us with God’s love, it is our breath, our food and our strength and I am certain where hope exists, so too does Christ. Amen


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