Journalist and PR professional Kate Nicholas has a story she is passionate about sharing. She believes she has been healed of inoperable, life-threating cancer. Here Kate tells Sarah Meyrick how her illness saw her reflecting on God’s work in her life and inspired her to write an autobiography.
Kate started writing Sea Changed while she was under treatment as a legacy for her children. “At the time I had stage 4 cancer around my heart and the prognosis was not good. I wanted them to understand how much God loved me. When I realised I was going to survive, it became something bigger.”
Until then she’d always lived life “at a hundred miles an hour”. She’d been a journalist at the top of her game when, a decade ago, she changed direction and went to work for the international development charity World Vision, first as Head of Communications for the UK, and then globally, with responsibility for communications across 100 countries.
“Sometimes God brings you to a standstill,” she says. “Strangely, [the illness] was a gift. I had written journals all my life, and I started to read them. I thought ‘Oh my goodness’, as I could see God at work.” She used the journals as a basis for her book. Her account is frank. “I wanted to reassure people that the surest path to God isn’t necessarily a straight line,” she says. “This is the unvarnished version. It’s in your failings that people can connect, not your perfection.” When her parents met, her mother was a journalist and her father worked in advertising. They left London for life in rural north Buckinghamshire, where she and her family still live. Kate was raised a Baptist but struggled with faith.
“I was very influenced by my father who was bipolar, and waged war on God and the world,” she says. “I was terrified he would take his own life. I couldn’t understand how God could love my father but let him suffer so much. I turned my back and walked away because I was angry. But I realised that God was not going to let me go.”
Nonetheless, even as a young child she had a strong sense of the numinous. After a few years in the world of work she went travelling. “I studied but rejected Buddhism. In the deserts of Australia, I encountered a sense of the numinous so powerful that I understood how the indigenous people felt in constant connection with their Creator. A world without God made no sense.” There she met John. “I’m so blessed to have my soulmate,” she says. “I’ve learned so much from him. He is truly a godly man. He is a Catholic and struggles with that but he’s so supportive of my faith and of our children being brought up in the Church of England. Meeting him changed my life in so many ways.”
Kate and John returned to the UK, married and set up home. Her faith was growing: at first it made sense at an intellectual level. “I read voraciously. I still didn’t know Jesus but I accepted who he was.” Then one day in church something extraordinary happened when she went up for a blessing. “I knelt at the altar. The Rector put his hands on my head and I was filled with light. I was lifted up. It was as if God had been a whisper until then, but afterwards he was speaking through a megaphone. My hair stood up on end – I felt blasted with love and light. Jesus broke through. He was there, with me, beside me, and his presence made sense. Until that point it was if I was standing on the outside, looking in.”
This was the beginning of an upheaval. “God turned my life upside down. He called me to World Vision, which has been one of the great blessings of my life. It’s been a fundamental part of my faith journey. I’ve been to some of the toughest places on the planet and met some extraordinary grace-filled individuals who have made me realise Christ is alive and working in the world today.”
With a demanding job that saw her travelling the world, Kate’s life was full when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in August 2014. “It had spread locally and they said it was inoperable. A few weeks later they found the pericardial sac around my heart, which was stage 4 and advanced.
“Through Google I found a report in a respected medical journal that said 85 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer around their hearts die within 12 months.” At that point she gave up on Google and started to focus on the Bible. “I began to study, and found that God’s perfect will is to heal. There are all these accounts of healing in the Bible. ‘I am the God who heals,’ it says in Exodus.”
Kate found her way to a branch of the Christian Healing Mission in Bletchley. “Because I had travelled internationally, I had seen US style healing and I was expecting some kind of theatre. Instead, a middle-aged lady invited me in for a cup of tea and a biscuit.
“I felt the scepticism rising up in me.” Then they began talking and she discovered the woman was from the village where Kate was brought up. “I said, ‘OK Lord, I’m listening now.’” She says the experience of healing was extraordinary. “It was like electricity passing through my body. I saw this incredible face [of Jesus] in front of me, coming towards me. I felt the cancer leaving my body almost like dust motes in the air.”
When Kate returned to the hospital the healing was evident. “The consultant radiologist asked if I’d started treatment. When I said no, she said, ‘It’s very odd but the cancer’s shrunk.’ That gave me such hope.”
Kate was also filled with a profound sense of peace. She felt she should pray for a miracle. She underwent chemotherapy and made such good progress that the doctors reversed their earlier decision and operated. Surgery removed most, but not all of the cancer. Radiotherapy followed. The next scan concluded that there was no evidence of cancer in her body.
“I believe I have been healed,” she says. “I went into treatment with the scripture, Psalm 118. 17, ‘I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.’ God uses all circumstances and he has used these,” says Kate, who is looking hopefully towards the future. “After 10 wonderful years I am leaving World Vision, stepping out in faith looking for new ways to serve and declare the works of the Lord. Already the book has been a springboard for conversations and has opened up the opportunities to give hope to others.”
Kate lives in Weston Underwood, near Olney with her husband John and daughters Aly and Emily.
Update: December 2017.
Since this feature was printed a lot has happened in Kate’s life. Sea Changed – which is now a best-seller – was shortlisted as CRT Christian Biography of the Year.
Kate says: “I have travelled all over the UK talking to church groups, cancer groups and at Christian events about my faith journey, my experience of God’s healing and how to make the most of every God-given day. With Christians, I have prayed and with secular groups I have found myself in extraordinary conversations about how God works in the world today. I have also been talking to a lot of Christian media and in Spring next year will be hosting a TV show with TBN UK on the theme of living a transformed life. My next book Soul’s Scribe: your story and God’s narrative will be coming out in 2019.
Kate continues to preach at St Peter’s and St Paul’s in Olney, and has launched a management and communications consultancy primarily working with Christian organisations. “One of the projects I have been so blessed to be involved with is the Diocese of Oxford’s Common Vision process led by the Rt Revd Steven Croft,” says Kate. “I continue to be amazed at how God can use every circumstance of our lives – no matter how challenging – to his purpose and I am excited to see where else God will lead me in 2018.”