THREE times the Rev Paul Ginever came close to death.
But three times the vicar of historic St Mary’s Church, in Hayling, beat the disease – including a tumour the size of a melon – and he believes God has kept him alive for a reason.
The 65-year-old will take his last service on May 25 after 15 years at the church and, fittingly, the service will be the baptism of his grandson, Drew.
He says each time he has managed to fight back from lymphoma, stomach and bowel cancer it is through a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and prayer.
‘It’s a cliché, but you do realise what matters in life – not what you’ve got, but the people around you,’ said Mr Ginever.
‘I’ve been prayed for around the world, by people of virtually every denomination. I wouldn’t be here without the combination of modern medicine, the love of God and the support of others.
‘Each time I’ve had the treatment and recovered, I think I’ve become a different person. I’ll be continuing to explore my discipleship in retirement, and I hope I can be useful in this new era of my life.’
Mr Ginever’s first curacy was in inner-city Manchester. He has also worked in Perth, Western Australia, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Malvern – where he first became ill.
Incredibly, he was initially diagnosed with stress.
He said: ‘They even suggested I should swim to help de-stress. But when a scan showed I had a tumour the size of a melon in the middle of my chest, they told me I shouldn’t even walk upstairs.
‘I felt anger and disbelief. I thought I was too young to die at 45. It was lymphoma, and one doctor told me it was a type of cancer they could defeat, and I’ve always remembered that.’
He needed emergency surgery to save his life and was transferred to a hospice for chemotherapy and radiotherapy. ‘It was a place where you knew every day was precious,’ said Mr Ginever.
‘After 12 months I was cancer-free and I remember prancing about on Bournemouth beach thanking my lucky stars that I could run again.’
Having also beaten stomach and bowel cancer Mr Ginever is now cancer-free. He said: ‘It has given me a natural understanding of how people feel when they are suffering. When parishioners have a similar diagnosis, I have an empathy that goes deeper than words.’
He added: ‘I’m sure God has kept me alive for a reason, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve him in a new way.’