A RETIRED vicar has spoken of his desire to support the life saving causes to which he says he owes so much.

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Basil Jenkyns, who holds the title of Canon of Wells Cathedral in Somerset, has raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities over the last few years.

The 82-year-old, who lives in Leiston with his wife, Jean, 83, was diagnosed with the disease shortly after his retirement while living in Wales in 1997.

He said: “A man said to me: ‘Aren’t you bitter. You are a vicar, you have been to church. Don’t you feel resentful’. However, Christianity is not an insurance policy. I remember a marvellous doctor saying to me ‘God puts his best soldiers on the front line’.

“Providing I could have got over it I wish I’d had the experience when I first started as a parish priest. I’ve dealt with people with cancer all my life but until you have it yourself you don’t know exactly what the challenges are. I would have talked a lot more sense.”

Canon Jenkyns said the doctors did not hold out much hope and a gruelling course of treatment and chemotherapy left him feeling a “physical wreck”.

However he made a determined recovery and decided he wanted to raise money for cancer research charities by opening up his garden

The first event raised £500 but they grew in stature every year - forcing him to switch to a larger venue. The success continued when he and his wife, who have been married 52 years, moved to a new village, with Canon Jenkyns persuading a number of other people to open up their gardens as well.

The events raised £25,000 in total - something he was keen to continue when the couple moved to Leiston in 2009 to be closer to their daughter, who lives in Langham, near Colchester, and son, who has a house in Aldeburgh.

“I knew that I wanted to continue,” he said. “I was back to full fitness and I owed so much to the people who research cancer treatment.

“When I first started if you were diagnosed with cancer it meant curtains - that’s not the case now. Although you still have a long way to go the advances have been phenomenal. I’m hoping that gene therapy will be the end of this terrible, terrible disease.”

His garden proved too small to open to members of the public so he decided to offer his services as a lecturer - something he had also done in Wales.

He now gives talks to local groups on a variety of topics - and his diary for 2013 is already starting to fill up.

“I’m giving lectures all over the place now for various good causes - Cancer Research UK, MacMillan, the cinema supporters club, the Long Shop Museum,” the grandfather of five said. “If it’s a local cause them I’m absolutely delighted.”

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