Homily - Vril

The men who run Europe - Vril

The Larios Family - Master of the Hunt - Vril

The Battle for Normandy - Vril

The Mobile War - Vril

Catholic Chaplains in the Great War - Vril






Facing a Cancer Diagnosis a talk given by Chris Fry Saturday 20th July 2019



For those who don’t know me, my name is Chris Fry. I’m 68 years old, married 41 years to Katy with children Hannah (40) and Tim (38) who each have 2 children themselves.



 I’ve had a career of 50 years in railway engineering, almost all of these being in bridge repair, refurbishment and replacement or new build. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the work; something new every day; especially working with a great bunch of people. Working in the railway is working in a family of people who share a concern to do a good job, work the hours as necessary and be proud of the finished article.



I’ve also enjoyed good health, excepting breaking my arm falling off a shelf when I was very small (what was I doing on a shelf?), then having a mild heart attack a few years ago. So very little to do with health or hospitals in between.


But a few months of a persistent cough in the autumn/winter of 2018 and nothing showing on a chest X Ray led to my being referred to a Respiratory Consultant, having a CT scan and the bald but clear statement from the Consultant on 17 January of this year that the scan showed that I had cancer in the bowel, liver and lung.



 After telling my family we saw an Oncology Consultant on 24 January who explained that the cancer was essentially incurable, that without intervention I might have a remaining life span of between 6 and 12 months; surgery was not an option but that chemotherapy might hold or prolong life by a year or so.


 I have what is known as Stage 4 cancer. 


Together with my family I elected to start chemotherapy immediately.


6 months on, I have now had nearly 2 rounds of 6 sessions of chemotherapy. There are some modest negative side effects but, essentially, I feel quite well and energised mentally, emotionally as well as physically.


But I still have Stage 4 cancer and a prognosis of a near death.


I want to talk about this today because:

1 Everyone has some contact with this subject – someone in your family, a work colleague, a neighbour or someone in the news. Can we make sense of this difficult subject.


2. Men are not articulate about health and personal stuff. We’re unlikely to see a GP unless we’re desperate or told to by a wife. The cancer conversations are often between women.


Cancer used to be covered over; even the word wasn’t spoken. When my wife’s father died of cancer whilst she was in her teens, she didn’t know and her mother didn’t know what the problem was. They weren’t told.


It’s still a chilling word.


• It’s typically painful and discouraging to live with untreated cancer


• It’s typically painful and discouraging to live with treated cancer


• It typically leads directly to death So, we find it hard to speak about – and there will be painful memories in this room which make this a doubly difficult subject.


6 months in, these are my personal reflections on how people tackle this issue and then how I’m facing this. My wife and children also have their own personal journeys to make, shared but different.


The first part of what I have to say is likely to be hard to listen to – but I think it’s realistic. The second part has a message of real hope which I believe is for everyone to enjoy and which overwhelms the first part!


Let’s start with the subject of death. Facing death.


Cancer typically, and at some point, leads to death. People die of many things but the equation with cancer is very stark. Cancer typically leads to death. And death is where we are all heading.


This is where we all struggle.


• The writer George Bernard Shaw put it this way: ‘Death is the ultimate statistic; one out of one dies’


And we find it impossibly difficult to be quiet and calm in the face of this inevitability:


• Jean Jacques Rousseau - philosopher: ‘He who pretends to face death without fear is a liar’


• Edward Gibbin – historian, when dying said: ‘All is now lost, finally and irrevocably lost. All is dark and doubtful’


Thinking people have always struggled with this:


• Aristotle – Greek philosopher: ‘Death is a dreadful thing for it is the end’


Having cancer and having cancer treatment can be a very vivid daily reminder of our mortality.


Many people, not all but many, deal with it by some form of death-denial or avoidance by seeking to get out of life as much as they can:


• ‘Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ – is a very old but still-used approach.


• Others are more productive – fulfilling bucket lists of what they want to do whilst they can.


• Some try to leave lasting memories for their families. Words and gifts to be opened on future birthdays and other anniversaries to keep connections as if the loved one was still there.


• The hospice movement seeks to bring calm instead of frenetic activity before the inevitable occurs.


These methods may superficially look different but each of them comes against the massive wall of death and there everything is stopped.


So, funerals and thanksgiving services understandably look at the life that’s been lived with only a glancing reference to the giant and overwhelming reality of death.


I understand that. Death is no friend. It’s frightening in its apparent bleakness, darkness and loneliness. Why would we want to look at it if it could always be pushed to the margins and appear to be nothing by not being thought about? But it is worthy of thought.


Some people with terminal cancer do try to think about dying. They write blogs to try to make sense of what they are facing.


Is this the end for me? Does everything stop now? Is the life that I’ve lived eventually of zero significance? These are hard thoughts to think. Hard for me; hard for you.


Most people can’t believe that death is truly THE END– and for the very good reason that as the Bible puts it ‘God has put eternity into the hearts of men’. We have a deep sense that there is something more – the enduring, the infinite, the ongoing, that death is not the end. There’s more. We know this instinctively but don’t know how to find out what that ’more’ might look like.


So, let’s go into death and beyond death. Facing life after death.


Many people have some vague hope of some kind of positive experience and existence after death but hesitate to give it any content, or description, so it appears hardly worth looking forward to compared with the vivid realities of good things we can enjoy here on earth. And some might even dare to face up to the thought that what happens after death might not be positive but rather a time of paying for life’s misdeeds.


How can we know? We live in an age where instinctively we look to science to tell us the answers. But science seems to leave us with a blank on this one. Cremation or burial offers nothing but silence; no evidence of anything happening afterwards; total shut down.


But I’d like to challenge that view with the story of one man who died, was buried and then experienced and showed a life after death. It is this story that has become very important for me over the last 6 months. This story is so helpful for the modern age because it is not based on theory, philosophy, traditions, folklore or wishful thinking but on historical and verifiable facts. I’ll give you 5.


Fact 1: His life, work, death and life beyond death was predicted in words written hundreds of years before he actually lived. You can read them now and see how everything was fulfilled just as had been predicted. You can put this through the scientific sieve and ask yourself the question – how can this be? Is there something in this?



Fact 2: Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son, lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in some obscurity and then with 3 years in a blaze of public teaching and miracle working even bringing 2 people back to life. As already predicted in centuries old writing. Thousands of people saw and heard all of this. It was written down and you can connect that with the old predictions. Put this through the scientific sieve. What does this mean?



Fact 3: He predicted how he would die and that he would rise from the dead. He said it and it was written down – though no-one could believe that it could actually be like he said. It had never happened before.



Fact 4: We know more about Jesus death than almost anybody else in history. In great detail. It’s as if we are meant to really face up to our own death in the mirror of his and learn whatever lessons we can about death from this one man’s death. We can read about it. Put this through the scientific sieve. What does this mean?



Fact 5: He died and was buried but 3 days later he came alive, wonderfully alive, and appeared to many, individually, in groups and to crowds. Multiple occasions. Those who wrote about this gave the names of many who saw, talked, eat and touched this ‘after death’ living man. And they say to us. Put this through the scientific sieve. Ask us eye- witnesses what we saw.


What has this meant for me?


My cancer diagnosis and the sense of a near death has forced me to consider and get close to these facts very carefully. I’ve known these things since I was young but now I want to be 100% clear on this because there’s no other story that I know that tackles the realities of death and what lies beyond with so much touchable, verifiable reality.



But more than that, my cancer diagnosis and the sense of near death has forced me to consider very carefully how I can face death and what lies beyond with confidence and hope. And I know that this story of Jesus is not just to dazzle and intrigue us but to call me to put my confidence and hope in him by being a learner and follower of Jesus so that when my lonely moment comes it will not actually be lonely because he will be there and he will take me with him through death and into an abundant life that will never end. And all of this is for you as well as me.



And my life purpose now is very clear; not bucket lists or filling every moment with something that will in the end fade away but living very close to Jesus and taking every opportunity to speak with people like you about how we can all have confidence and hope facing death because of a life beyond that we can enjoy because of Jesus Christ.