It seemed a cruel blow, especially for a young Norfolk
couple who had devoted much of their lives to helping young people grow in faith through various Christian organisations.
"I was bitter and resentful towards God as the tears flowed down my face while driving back from work that day; I took it very hard," says Steve, whose teenage sweetheart, Ann,
was given just a 50 per cent chance of survival.
As they talked that night about the shocking realities, an unexpected telephone call heralded peace, power and hope. Steve,
a board member of Norwich Youth for Christ,
received a simple prayer request for the director's young daughter. At the same time he was asked if he had any personal requests. Suddenly, the couple's cancer struggle was not their own. A global prayer hot-line was mobilised within 24 hours and they knew and felt its immediate impact.
"Despite my initial resentfulness God still loved us and poured out his provision and he proved how good he is," says Steve, who would never have activated the growing chain of willing prayers without that telephone call.
"We saw that God was with us every step of the way. Situations against all the odds were resolved as people, including the youth group we had led, prayed for specific outcomes," adds Ann.
She was given a private room so she could feed her six-week-old baby and Steve could be at her bedside day and night. The hospital had no provision for children but in the weeks before Ann's admission a midwife and a paediatrician had been miraculously transferred to the ward to gain experience and Ann was taken to the operating theatre by a Christian porter.
Today, Ann has a large scar on her leg. It will always be a reminder of God's faithful provision and "is part of who I am", explains the mother of two, who teaches in a local school. But while preparing for her son's wedding, and studying for an education degree, cancer struck again two decades later. After attending a Leadership conference where there was a session on healing, Ann faced two invasive operations and radiotherapy to remove breast cancer three years ago, as she continued with the busy season of her life.
"Although cancer has tested our faith on two occasions, I would not have been without either of them because God has been so close and taught me things that I could not have learnt in any other way," said Ann.
"I don't believe God made me ill but I believe God walked with me through those times and I am a different person now. I have wanted to learn those valuable lessons of trust and in both circumstances I have only been able to fully appreciate what has gone on afterwards, with reflection, and it has been a privilege because cancer has not been the end but the journey," says Ann.
Pictured above are Ann and Steve Rayner.