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Jeremy Marshall was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2013. He was 49 years old, happily married with three children. After undergoing surgery and a course of radiotherapy, Jeremy was declared cancer-free. But three years later he was diagnosed with cancer again, this time in a different form and was told it was incurable.
Beyond the Big C chronicles Jeremy’s extraordinary relationship with cancer and, more than anything, his extraordinary relationship with the person who promises life beyond the prognosis. The essence of Jeremy’s story is that despite the sickness and disease present in the world, a life lived in light of Christ’s death on the cross means there is hope for the future no matter what.
Jeremy Marshall is the former CEO of the UK’s oldest private bank, C. Hoare & Co. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016.
You know when you hear the devastating news that a loved one or even an acquaintance, has an incurable illness and you are at a loss as to what to say? As a Christian you know that Jesus has the words of ETERNAL LIFE but you feel paralysed by a fear that anything you say might be seen as insensitive or that you are somehow unqualified to speak to someone facing a terrible diagnosis that you can’t personally identify with? Jeremy Marshall has provided an answer. This short, accessible book takes roughly forty minutes to read, but here Jeremy shares his frank, honest journey with cancer as a Christian and then explains how Jesus can be with you in the storm. It is a clear, un–sugarcoated, empathetic call to faith in the midst of suffering, to come to the suffering Saviour who Alone can give hope beyond the grave. I will be buying twenty of these as, sadly, I know in time there will be plenty of people to give them out to. Praise God for the message of the Gospel as presented in this little book; thank you Jeremy for this kind gift to the church and others suffering with ‘the Big C’.
Beyond the Big C is not a brief bio of Marshall on his journey with cancer but as his mention it over and over the book, it about someone else (which is Jesus). He gladly admits that he is an ordinary Christian meaning he’s an average Joe with a few (but essential) things he knows about Christianity and why it is true. As you will find in this book, his pain, fear and doubts are the same as what you might experience. However, he is placing his trust whatever the outcome of his battle to God. And he is challenging you whatever your struggling to place it also to God. As Marshall shares his beliefs you’ll find that he’s not arguing Christianity as an excellent apologist or well learned theologian. He comes in the book as a friend with enough convictions that will not turn you off because it’s becoming preachy or technical. Nor Marshall over loads you with information. Consider him as a stranger starting a conversation with you in a coffee shop, at a park bench or at a hospital lobby. Marshall is sharing the Christian message with a comforting and encouraging tone without compromising it.
We have all been affected by cancer in one way or another. As a Secondary school Chaplain, the biggest questions our students have are generally around suffering and life & death. This book deals with these questions openly and honestly. I have found this book incredibly helpful to talk through with students who come from both faith and non faith backgrounds. Jeremy is refreshingly real and honest about his fears of death – yet, when you finish reading the book you are filled with hope and encouragement. The hope Jeremy describes is like pure gold in the sea of uncertainty that comes with living with cancer or walking alongside someone who has. It is short enough to be read in 45mins and can be given to young and old. Thank you for this inspirational book. It is filled with HOPE.
For Jeremy Marshall, the purpose of telling his story and about cancer is not to reflect on suffering for its own sake, but to use his experience to bring the reader to the point of asking: “What have I found to be the answer to my fear? I don’t see any answer … if I look at the world around me. Nor do I find one if I look within”. From his own experience and drawing on other writers, Jeremy concludes that fear emanates from a feeling of loss of control of one’s own circumstances, the prospect of life ending — and then, existentially, the possibility that no one is in control. As he introduces the Christian teaching that God is sovereign, that Jesus understands our suffering and reconciles us to our creator, he emphasises that this is not theological theory for the religious, but a necessary– for–all relationship of trust which extends beyond the grave. Short reflections on Bible passages, simply and elegantly presented from the perspective of a layman and “fellow–sufferer” rather than a theologian, are interspersed with reflections on the gospel message illustrated by vignettes from his own life. Aware of the danger of offering glib answers to the philosophical and practical problem of suffering, Jeremy is not afraid to own feelings of loneliness, terror and “why me”. He nevertheless gently and persistently points out the dead ends of pagan and secular approaches, and shows Jesus as the great physician, even “oncologist of death”. This is an excellent little book to give family and friends — not just in response to cancer or other tragedy. It deserves to be widely read and acted upon. Originally Reviewed in The Church of England Newspaper 03/01/20
‘Beyond the Big C’ is brief (72 pages) and to the point, setting out hope even in the face of a challenging diagnosis. As Marshall says, it’s not about how to cope with cancer, or how to beat it, but rather aims to introduce people to the one person who utterly transforms lives and offers hope both day by day in this messed up world, and beyond death too. The style is warm and personal, frank about grim realities and challenging circumstances, and the author is honest about his own difficulties—particularly his ongoing fear. The credibility of the book cannot be questioned given the author’s own experience. The gospel proclaimed in the book offers true hope. The author’s trust in Jesus shines through. This book perhaps merits reading so that we might understand what others are going through in the midst of a cancer diagnosis, but that’s not really the point. The point is for it to be read by the person who doesn’t know Jesus, and who desperately needs to encounter him in light of their diagnosis. What higher commendation can I offer than this: having finished reading for this review, I put the book in the post for someone in exactly that situation.
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