THIS week's Community Column is written by local minister Rev Ian Miller.

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In the summer of 2013, my wife Joan began to complain about a lump in her neck.

“It’s nothing,” she would say.

Eventually she did decide to seek medical advice and after a battery of tests and investigations a tonsillar cancer was diagnosed.

On December 26, 2013, Joan embarked on a debilitating six weeks course of radio therapy.

So from Monday – Friday we would leave Alexandria bound for the radiology unit at the Beatson for her 9am appointment or thereabouts. Strangely enough there was a sort of camaraderie which developed among the fellow sufferers and it was not without humour.

There were also two courses of chemo which took the feet from Joan and she spent some time in Ward B3.

Into our lives at this dark time came a lead clinical nurse called Frances Campbell, dealing with head and neck cancers. Frances is part funded by the Beatson charity.

During a consultation with Joan at her lowest physically and mentally, Frances leaned over, took her hand and just said, “What are we doing to you?”

It was one of those transcendent moments where a light shines in the darkest hour.

Time and time again I was moved by the level of care and compassion that Joan received.

On February 6, 2014, the treatment was over and there was a long slow climb back to what Joan had been before the illness.

A few days ago the Beatson charity celebrated its third anniversary and announced its intention to support the wonderful work of the oncology unit led by Dr Trish Clark, Gerry O Hare and their team at the Vale.

What a resource of help and healing they have been to people at their lowest ebb.

If or when Dr Clark retires I wonder will the Health Board again sharpen their knives.

As a community let us keep vigilant as to their intentions.

Watch out also for more information about a vigil being planned for the end of April to protest about the continued reduction of valued services.