I can’t believe a whole term has passed since my operation and I am still not walking properly. I have had all sorts of pain around my leg that seems to prohibit my leg healing well enough to walk without fatigue or totally giving way the following day. Poor Jeremy often has to deal with the aftermath of this if I choose to overdo it the day before. This means my mobility is even more limited, often resting in bed and twice having to miss out on church. A couple of weekends ago I decided to cook up a simple pesto pasta for lunch for my family. I looked at the clock and realised I have been upright for an hour and this sick feeling came over my stomach. I have to learn to be smarter about these things, such as sit on a stool or chair while chopping veggies!!

Needless to say that most of this term has been spent sitting in the recliner, having naps, and going to bed early. Also learning how best to control my pain. I have really enjoyed those that have come to visit me. I have found family and friends to be such a comfort in this time. I never expected to also cry so easily, so readily about this cruel change in my life and I am thankful I can do this without judgement. It has been lovely to share life with you and somehow we are both mutually encouraged.

So even in the pain and the difficulty of loss, God has shown his goodness again in his people. I am grateful he gets me through each day. Lately I have had more energy which means I have ventured out with Jeremy and a couple of friends. A few weeks ago, this seemed to be impossible. Going out for a simple meal seemed like the biggest saga. Jeremy and I got to celebrate our 17 year wedding anniversary early September, and decided to take the kids out with us for brunch. When I first walked in the restaurant, the waiter wanted us to walk down a steep stair case, at which I promptly cried. No need for tears though, there was a rear access which we could park close to. So all in all our brunch celebration was saved and was a lovely experience.

Chemo has been harsh this time round. I feel like I have not been spared the side effects that I previously once was under other chemos. I get a nasty pain in my left arm once the infusion is over and this has lasted for up to an hour. A couple of weeks ago Jeremy and I were able to avoid this pain through lymphatic massage the night before, morning and just before chemo and working out a good list of pain relief drugs to take. Last week I wasn’t so fortunate but at least it wasn’t as intense as it could have been.  At least by the time I get home, the pain doesn’t come back.

I am very grateful to be alive and enjoy life more. I want to be more active around the house and not just concentrate on getting through each day but to interact more positively with the kids and with Jeremy. I want to be productive again and I want to give rather than just receive. I have been listening to Philip Jensen’s talks on Mark’s gospel and Romans and have been encouraged by Jesus preaching ministry that the kingdom of God is here. He has the ability to heal me but more so, he wants a relationship with me that involves him dying on the cross for me. He takes away my broken relationship with God and restores it. This is the good news that has changed the world. And I’m also encouraged that although he doesn’t promise to heal me, that I can always ask for it and his mercy for me is never ending.

The kids have started school holidays and the next few weeks are full of fun activities for them. I am thankful they have been away with grandparents in this time at the beach, especially since it has been so hot. I wish I was able to take them away like we normally do.

Please pray

  • That the pain after chemo subsides
  • That the cancer responds to the chemo and dies away completely
  • That God will heal and restore me
  • That I will try and be more proactive at home
  • That my leg will heal and I will be walking normally very soon
  • That my family is strengthened and school holidays are a fun time.

Thank you again for your prayers and love.

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I was very fortunate to have had my surgery at the scheduled time. There were issues with my haemoglobin levels in my blood which seemed to threaten the surgery from going ahead. I reached out to some women at church and to my family to pray and by the Wednesday everything was set to go. I was weepy from the moment I went in to this point as I write. Unlike other surgeries, I felt more vulnerable this time and glad that Jeremy was there to pray for me before I went in. The surgery went to plan. I had an epidural and drugs to make me drowsy. I woke to the sound of banging and cheering as the x-ray showed that the rod was in place. The anaesthetist was lovely. Epidurals are not easy to put in. I couldn’t imagine having one in labour as the amount of moving you feel you need to do would have made it very difficult. I was lucky to have mine in for a few days for pain relief after the surgery. It really dealt with the pain quite well.

The surgery fixed the pain in my leg immediately. However, now I need to build up strength. I was in hospital for 6 days and because I had an epidural in, I was placed in the high dependency unit and this time round I got my own room. Although there were issues with the air conditioning, I was grateful to be cared for so well. The nurses were amazing. The orthopaedic team were incredible as well. They were happy with my progress, but like last time I was in hospital, I had a fever every day. This spike in my temperature meant I was on some very strong antibiotics and each day they would take blood cultures. I had no infection. They couldn’t find anything with my blood. This is not so unusual for cancer patients, but in hospital they have strict protocols. I was fortunate to be able to go home as planned. 6 days in hospital was enough.

So now I am in recovery. I have felt weakened and humbled. It is difficult to contemplate that this cancer is determined to destroy me and take me away from my family. I cry out to God and my prayers feel weak and unanswered. I hate the battle analogy with cancer, but really, it is the only one that I can work with. It’s a battle that cancer will win this side of heaven. I just need it to take a long time. It’s like a boxing match. And I have to get back in the ring. This time though, I have lost my roar and I’m whimpering.

I have had to be baby sat the week I came home from hospital. The day after I got home I went to my physio who has gently worked with me. I am sad because I want to be walking normally. However, in the last 2 weeks, I no longer need my cane, I don’t need to sit in the shower, I am able to walk around more at home and my physio exercises, which at first seemed impossible, are now quite doable. Building up strength and waiting for the swelling to go away has meant progress is slow. I am sad too that I am not able to teach. But having had family over the past week has been good for my soul.

Jeremy has been absolutely amazing in his love, care and support of me. As we face another setback, he has been by my side and unconditional in his support. He has just been incredible and I’m scared I’m going to burn him out. He is often working from home and looking after all the house hold chores and running kids too and from their activities. I am grateful that there have been so many to look after my children and that although I was stuck in hospital they were still able to have a great school holiday.  My siblings and mum have been amazing too, providing meals and sitting with me. I am grateful as well to have been able to celebrate Annalise’s birthday this week. We had a nice dinner at my mum’s on Thursday and last night she had four friends from school sleep over and watch two Percy Jackson movies. It’s all these little things that make battling this disease worthwhile. I am grateful to my niece who could stay over and help out in every way.

I will also be resting at home this week. I go back to treatment on Friday and I have a few appointments with my medical team this week as well. Please pray

  • That my hip makes a full recovery. I’ll be walking properly and the strength will come back
  • I don’t burn Jeremy out or the rest of my family
  • No more winter bugs to haunt our family
  • That God gives me strength and energy to keep fighting this disease
  • That the cancer in my chest responds to treatment and shrinks away.
  • That my body has some reprieve as it heals and the cancer lies dormant for a long while.

Thank you again for all your love and support.

Lets hope that’s right because this term there were certainly three and I’m not keen for any more. EVA.

Firstly at the beginning of term, I had radiation to the cancer that invaded my chest wall above and below it. The radiation got rid of a lot of pain but has caused other  issues and again limited my arm movement. Familiar pain from 4 years ago now. Secondly, straight after the radiation to my chest, I was due for my three monthly MRI on my brain. This revealed a small cancer (7mm) that developed on my frontal lobe that could be treated with single dose radiation. I had no symptoms and radiation went smoothly. Whilst that was being sorted out, my hip was quite painful. No amount of physio or anti-inflammatory drugs could help. This led to a bone X-ray, which revealed nothing followed by a bone scan which revealed cancer within the neck of my femur. The pain grew exponentially so that I was relying on a walking stick to walk. Fun at first because it had a torch attached to it. I’d shine it on the kids and told them to freeze and then unfreeze. It unfortunately broke very quickly.

So thirdly I got one dose of radiation to the hip and as we questioned the radiation oncologist it was revealed that this cancer was visible on the last CT scan we did in April but not reported on. We were worried about the pain and the size and it was agreed we should see an orthopaedic surgeon. But the one dose of radiation was meant to reduce the pain considerably and best case scenario bring healing. When we saw the orthopaedic surgeon, he said the pain wouldn’t go until we operated. He said it was only going to get worse. So lets do something about it now before it gets worse and he suggested operating the following week (this coming Wednesday).

Today we spent 4 hours at the preadmission clinic sorting out the details for the surgery, getting blood tests, urine tests, checking my blood pressure etc. It turns out I have  low red blood cell count as well as low white blood cell count. I started my new chemo a fort night ago. These were expected side effects but I was hoping I would have recovered by now. I will be retested on Monday and please pray that all will be ok. The surgery is considered minimally invasive, the surgeon will put in a pin in my femur and the operation will last just under an hour. Because of my lung issues, I will not go under a general anaesthetic but will happen under an epidural. So I will be awake for the procedure. I felt much better about the operation after that. Recovery from anaesthetic I have never found to be pleasant. So hopefully this will avoid nasty surgery complications. Pray for this end.

Last term was a busy term at school. We used our new database system for reports, it was exam and assessment time as well as the usual finish to term 2 with the Science Expo I run every year. This was another fabulous year for that, and despite all my health issues, I was grateful to God for the privilege. I also had my 5 year cancerverasary, gifted by the knowledge of my brain cancer. I finished up leading my growth group on Monday nights. For the last 2.5 years, I had the privilege with a friend of leading a womens group to study the bible. The last study, we spent a term studying Romans chapter 8. It was very encouraging. My minister is writing a book on chapter 8 and as part of that, the following video was put together. It was a privilege to be part of. Please don’t post a link on facebook. It was a bit awkward when some of my senior students were talking about it. I try not to talk about cancer at school and that has given me some normality.

Looking back it was a crazy term, but God took me through it mercifully and smoothly. I could handle every blow knowing that he was with me and would have my back. Encouraging myself as I set out at the beginning of the year to trust in his unfailing love.

The slip up with the scans was a big wake up call to keep on top of this cancer by trying to understand what is going on. For the last 6 months I just entrusted my medical team, which I should be able to do, but I know I need to keep in step with it too. Jeremy has been amazing, so supportive and proving to be quite the chef as he has taken over many of the family duties. He has been my knight in shining armour, coming to appointments and getting answers and clarification.

So the new chemo is meant to mess with my white blood cell count whereas the last chemo messed with my platelets. So I am just praying that I don’t get any additional sickness. Last term I didn’t have  a cold, a cough and breathing felt so much better after the pneumonia I suffered end of term 1. I am praying this will still be the case.

Please pray

  1. The surgery goes ahead
  2. My white and red blood cell count recover
  3. No complications occur with surgery
  4. That my hip heals and no more pain
  5. That my physio is able to get me walking without my cane
  6. I have a quick recovery
  7. That my family will be spared grief upon grief.
  8. That life becomes more normal
  9. That God will continue to protect me and my family.
  10. That I will continue to trust in God’s unfailing love.

Thank you again for all your support. I will try and be more regular with this blog. Last term was a little crazy!!

The last month has been somewhat miserable. At the end of March I was diagnosed with pneumonia and I had to go to emergency at Westmead hospital for the intravenous antibiotics that would settle it. I think I made it just in time because the following day I could barely walk 5 meters without wanting to get back into my bed and on the oxygen. It was one hellish experience.

A couple of days before, my husband and daughter came home sick with the flu. I was dreading it because I only just recovered from the flu and didn’t want to get sick again. I went on the Jenolan Caves excursion that I had spent weeks organising and any kind of incline was incredibly difficult to walk. That should have been a clue as to how unwell I was. But I kept trying to ignore it and move on. I went again to school the following day and by the end of it I was coughing so much I couldn’t wait to get home. A hot, steamy shower settled my cough and I remained on the lounge the rest of the evening. But the next day I could barely keep awake and Jeremy sat with me until my doctor’s appointment in the afternoon.

I was dreading going into hospital. But my doctor said I needed to. I was admitted that evening and spent the next 5 days in a room with three others. The first night a psycho woman kept rearranging the furniture in her room. She had depression, OCD, and I think was an alcoholic as she kept asking for a drink. At first I thought she meant water! A couple of nights later I was transferred to another room and was told that the oncology ward had been demolished and patients were scattered around the hospital. My oncologist came a day later and told me that the hospital had run out of money to renovate it. Although I was a private patient, I couldn’t get my own room and the consolation prize was a coffee voucher and free TV.

I shared a room with a muslim lady who kept wailing about her condition. She was always surrounded by family and friends. They were so noisy and where even told off by the head nurse. For the next three days I found out her sad story and in the end I spent more time praying for her than being annoyed with her and her family. I was amazed at how much they cared for each other, despite the very loud friends coming at 5 in the morning to give her a shower. Her Australian sister in law was by her bedside each day and slept on the floor next to her each night so she wouldn’t be alone. She had 6 children, the eldest 23 and the youngest just 2 years old. She also had metastatic breast cancer. Our prayers were identical, praying for mercy and for time. It was just directed to different Gods and her prayers were much louder and followed by louder sobs.

There were 2 emergencies in my room that required patients to be transferred to a high dependency unit. One involved the use of a lot of equipment, including a portable X-ray machine. The panic by the medical staff filled the air. I had my curtains drawn so I couldn’t see anything but heard everything. Again I spent the night praying for the elderly man who seemed so utterly confused.

I spent 5 days in hospital. When I went in I wondered if I would get home again. But I was so glad to be discharged. It was crazy in hospital but I was grateful for the medication I was on. A couple of weeks later my lungs were clear. I have been recovering most of school holidays but I still don’t feel completely recovered. I sent out an emergency email to many friends and family asking for help for my family while I was in hospital. A meal train was set up and still going. It has been such a blessing as it has allowed me to spend more time resting.

During the holidays, I had the opportunity of going to Port Maquarie with my family. I had asked for Monday off work, as Tuesday was a public holiday. We were able to go away for a week. I soaked up the sunshine and the kids enjoyed going to the beach and bike riding with their dad. It was such a special time away. School has been incredibly gracious and have been very accommodating with my needs. It is such a blessing to be able to keep working there.

Keep praying for me. The cancer keeps growing but I’m thankful it hasn’t spread. I start a new treatment soon as well as radiation is on the cards for the next couple of weeks. I’m not keen on radiation but I’m desperate and since it has been 4 years since the last lot, they are OK in doing it again. I find out more about it next week. Pleas pray for minimum side effects and that the cancer responds to it and dies off never to return.

God has looked after me again through this whole time. I thought in the midst of pneumonia I was sure to die from it. But God has shown me more mercy and I am grateful for all he has provided to help me heal from it. I have surrendered everything to him and plead for more mercy so I can be with my family and not succumb to this disease.

Well this month has taken me a bit by surprise. I caught the flu from Ethan and worked out that I hadn’t had the flu since 2012. I had familiar symptoms but forgot what to do about them. I messaged Jeremy to get me some cold and flu tablets and some lemsip and spent the weekend on the couch. I missed two of my friends fortieth birthday celebrations. It was a miserable time.

My cancer hasn’t gotten better either. I had to have a lowered dose of chemo because my blood platelets were low. My oncologist decided to more than half my dose and things haven’t been the same since. Now that they are ok, he has given me the normal chemo dose but just doesn’t feel as effective. So now we have the next treatment plan lined up but want to make sure this treatment option is exhausted. So keep praying for me that this cancer shrinks away- for goodness sake!

I was thankful to celebrate Jeremy’s birthday and maybe overdid this last weekend. Dinner with friends, then went to see the movie the boss baby and have lunch together as a family in Parramatta. Followed by more family celebrations the next day with my aunt and uncle arriving from Syria as refugees. It was lovely to do all those things especially after the miserable weekend the week before.

This term has been a bit more sluggish than most years. After the death of my father, and the grieving time things have just been more grey. I was talking with my sister in law about this on Sunday and she said it was part of the grieving process. My brother had been feeling the same. It’s not like being able to enjoy things to the same extent as before. I do miss my dad. He is still the first face I look for when I go to my parent’s home.

Pray that I don’t get sick again. Three of us have nasty coughs at the moment and cancer always makes things worse. I can’t wait for Jesus to come back. A world without sickness, death, pain or suffering.

Thanks for your faithfulness. Pray that I keep soldiering on. I am so looking forward to these holidays.

On the 27 January my dear father passed away. He had been in a lot of pain and was sent to palliative care 2 weeks before to sort out his pain meds. On the evening he went in, my uncle had come to visit and he was in good spirits. He looked well enough and I wasn’t worried. They had been talking for hours waiting for the ambulance to come and take him. He was only meant to stay for a couple of nights. They had decided to keep him longer to make sure the pain meds were sorted and to save him having to go back and forth. 10 days later on Wednesday he was home. I had just started back at work and the school had kindly given us a long weekend by giving us the Friday after Australia day off. Jeremy and I decided to make the most of it and took the family down to Culburra. Before I left I rang to see how my parents were going. Dad was being sent home and mum wished us a nice holiday.

It was a lovely 2 days. I was feeling well and went swimming with my children and husband in the beach. It was over a year ago since I last did that. My tendinitis in my leg had just healed up and the weather was glorious. During dinner on Friday I had a sudden urge to call my parents. I rang dads’ phone- no answer. Then mums’ phone- again no answer. Then the home phone- no answer. I knew something was wrong. I sent a message on viber to my siblings “how’s dad?”- still there was no answer. I went in to the kitchen to get something when my brother called 5 minutes later. He broke the news. There was a lot of weeping and shock. I had sent the message at the same time he died.

At first I thought we would drive back in the morning. Then Jeremy offered to drive back that evening. We quickly packed everything and drove the 2.5 hour journey home. I went into my parents’ home and was greeted by my family and extended family. It was lovely to see my uncles and cousins and it was warm and familiar. Then I saw my mum, and we cried. They had kept his body there for me to say goodbye and I kissed his face for the last time.

My brother and sisters spent the next four days together and slept in my parents’ home. My cousin joined us for a few evenings as well. It was such a lovely and sad time together. We prepared for the funeral and grieved and laughed together. It was comforting being together. There were lots of people visiting my mother and my aunts and cousins looked after us by providing meals and by just being there. It was amazing how my parents church had come together for us as well by providing an evening of prayer and relaying memories. They also catered for the wake after the funeral. It was such a blessing.

I was due for treatment the day before the funeral and my siblings were concerned about this. I assured them not to worry as I would be on steroids. They got to experience that first hand. Usually I party alone at 2am. But they were all up including my nieces and watched me cook up spaghetti and eat 2 bowls of it, clean up the kitchen and then proceed to organise my mothers’ kitchen drawers. My brother was getting sick and needed to finish off the eulogy. I was still buzzing with energy and helped him type it up.

The funeral was a beautiful celebration of his life. He was gone and we were deeply sad about this. But I couldn’t help but feel so proud of the legacy he left behind and the sacrifices he made so that we could grow up in Australia. He was such a God- fearing man. He loved Jesus and was happy to share the reason for the hope he had. I know I will see him in heaven.

Here is the copy of the eulogy my brother wrote. Thanks to those who sent cards and messages and attended the funeral. I truly felt loved and supported.

My dad, Baba, as we called him was born September 1931 in Sadad to Moussa Ghazal and Habsi Awill, the eldest of seven children. He was able to gain a primary level education but was taken out of school when he was in year 4 to work with his father and the men of Sadad in the textile industry of that town.

At age 12 he went to the town of Hasika with friends and relatives to work harvesting wheat, returning to Sadad every few months. At 18 years of age he was conscripted into the army where he served as a private for the mandatory 2 years then was conscripted a further 2 times staying in the army till he was 21 years of age.

To avoid further conscription, which did arrive, he fled to Lebanon where he worked as a carpenter in the construction industry. He returned to his home in Sadad every now and then.

At age 28 he spent 1 ½ years in working in Kuwait.

When he was 29 years old he returned to Sadad where he asked for my mum’s hand in marriage and they were subsequently engaged. They had one private conversation in that very brief time which I can repeat in its entirety “I’m going to Lebanon, do you want anything?”

After 6 months dad returned to marry my mum on the 19 November 1961. 6 weeks later he left mum behind again to work in Kuwait for a further 1 ½ years again asking mum “Do you want anything?”

He returned for a month and then left again to work in Lebanon, but this time, 6 months later in 1964 mum joined him. They stayed in Lebanon for 8 years where they had 2 children, Najah his firstborn and me, Moussa. Since dad was about 8 years old he was called Abu Moussa (for the tradition was that the eldest boy in the family would name their firstborn son after their father). So in 1969 at my birth one of the ladies ran out to tell my dad “Abu Moussa, Moussa has arrived.”

In November 1971 Dad left his family to come to Australia for the promise of wonderful work opportunities and a better life for his family.

In January 1973 we arrived in Australia and lived in Blacktown where dad lived until his dying day. Mum and Dad had 2 further children in Australia, Julie, and Cindy.

In Australia dad worked at EPT in steel work for 13 years until his injury led to an early retirement.

In 1975 our family went with our cousins to the Arabic Evangelical Presbyterian church in Punchbowl (about an hours journey each way) where we first heard the gospel clearlyexplained by the minister of the church Asis Elias Hammo.

Mum was an instant convert but for dad it began a long investigation into the evangelical faith which saw him over many years read and study the Bible. I still have memories of dadreading the bible from cover to cover in those early years wrestling to figure out what was true.

Church was a fairly regular occurrence although there was a period of 2 ½ years where being upset he didn’t attend church at all. However he eventually returned to church but it was a few more years until he surrendered his life to Jesus. And thus began a powerful transformation of his life by the Holy Spirit.

Dad became a humble servant of the Lord and particularly his church. In 1993 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer but it had no dramatic impact on his life until last year when thinking he was having kidney pain he was eventually diagnosed with an aggressive metastatic cancer.

By July of last year, the cancer attacked his spine and rendered him paralysed. 2 weeks ago his pain levels increased so that he was admitted into palliative care to up his pain medication. He desperately wanted to be home. On Wednesday of last week he was discharged and returned home where 2 days later he got his wish and died peacefully in home and went to be with his beloved Lord.

His Character these are some of the reflections that my sisters and I had the other night.

Baba was a man who loved life. He was very social, he loved visiting and having visitors, partying and dancing. He especially loved the dabke and at a wedding or party you would often see him leading the dabke line with great enthusiasm and a big smile across his face. He loved to play games and when he was playing seriously with friends or family hehated to lose. He enjoyed playing backgammon and cards and would often visit friends to play and loved it when friends and family would come and play with him.

Even towards the end he was never too tired to play and was never the one who had enough. With the grandkids he was generally playful and loved having them around. He refused to allow the language barrier to prevent him from enjoying his grandkids. He effectively communicated that he loved them and enjoyed having them around. This was especially useful with my son Ben, who has severe autism and can’t communicate. Ben loved to play with his jido and dad always wanted him to come, sit on his lap and cuddle and laugh with him.

He loved bargain hunting. He loved his Garage Sales in particular. He would wait for the local Wednesday paper and highlight all the garage sales in Blacktown that he thought worthwhile and then get out his street directory and work out his plan of attack. Mum had a very pressured choice Saturday mornings, finish the house work or tag along. His 3 very full garages are testimony to the many “bargains” he collected. He loved to bargain, often too much, some would say embarrassingly so. “how much this one? $2!! $2 for all the box!” And this bargaining logic was applied to other areas, when buying a fridge, a lounge, another fridge, a car, bedroom furniture, another freezer…And he loved scaling the junk mail as well. Whether looking for 50Litres of OMO, a dozen boxes of toilet rolls, 1000 boxes of tissue or whether the cans of coke zero was on sale.

Anyone who knew dad, knew that he loved Gardening. One of the things I really resented about dad’s love for gardening was that the garden would take up more and more of the backyard. At our new house there was a fence and I remember telling him that this was the barrier for his garden, but he managed a way around that by planting a grape vine at the very edge of the garden and then constructing a trellis that extended out over the top of thebackyard lawn. Every year dad produced enough tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis and mloukehia to feed an army. And then there was his beloved pomegranate, fig, lemon, peach and plum trees.

Dad loved his family and would do anything for them. He never was inconvenienced to drive us to the station to go to Uni or anything. I remember in my stupid teenage years there was a couple of years that I didn’t talk to dad. But even during that time if I asked for a lift anywhere, he never hesitated to give me the lift.

Dad had a lot of love for his cousins, and their families. As children we grew up with many a family gathering held at Bronte beach leaving home before the sun came up in order to make sure we got a good parking spot. It pleased everyone, the women made tabouli all day, the men could sit in the gazebos playing their card games, backgammon and cooked a BBQ and the cousins would spend till sunset going in and out of the water, sun baking, eating ice cream and enjoying games on the ample grass. We were so grateful when family overseas were granted refugee status. When Lobier and Loreen, Lulyar and Naji, Lara and Nadim and their children arrived from Sadad, there was such a joy from the ease of communication of language and the sharing their most precious heritage. He treated them like their own children and they made a way into all our families hearts. Even though their arrival was under the most grievous circumstances, there was a common gratefulness of being in Australia, this great land of peace and opportunity.

Dad loved his church. He understood that loving Jesus meant loving his people. Dad served his church faithfully, regularly attending when he was able, serving in the book ministry and practising hospitality. He was so servant hearted, always looking out for others. Dad had a great respect for people. He never laughed at them or took the micky out of them. He laughed with them and thoroughly enjoyed their company. He loved being hospitable and many a gathering was had at our parents’ place. They made a good team. He was great at cooking Koobie on the BBQ (the chicken not so great) and the most precious of conversations would be had around it.

Dad was a humble and gentle man and greatly loved others. He has had lifelong friends, some for 4 decades that he met when he first arrived in Australia and it was heartbreaking to see them cry when they learned of his death. This is a rare site for Arab men. Their love for each other was great. Dad loved old and young. He was genuinely interested in people and was never too proud to not approach them and ask about their life.

Dad never questioned God. He never cried out “why me?”. He submitted to God’s will because he understood that God was in control and he had the right to give and take away. He ended his days as he began them, in prayer and bible reading with mum along with drinking matte and he was thankful for what God had done for him in Jesus. He would often say, “Don’t be afraid, Our God is big, our God is able”. Dad in the last week longed to be with Jesus, and when mum asked to come with him he told her that he she needed to stay for the kids.

What I especially love about dad is that he encouraged me to be a man and respected my decisions as a man and often asked for my opinions on things often deferring to me. He wanted me to be a man so he treated me like a man. The most important lesson I learnt from dad is that happiness is not bought with money nor comes through experience or achieved by success but through relationships and that the measure of a man is not to be found in his achievements or his position or status, but in the character of his life.

We love you baba. We will miss you. But we are glad that you are in the arms of Jesus and will meet you there one day.

Here is the link to the slide show

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1AHJG_kd8lITExqMTVEdFE1UWc/view

The last couple of January’s have never started well and I wish I could say I broke tradition. Scans revealed that the cancer was much bigger but had not spread. This meant a change to treatment plan and left me feeling bewildered, bitter and confused. I thought it was time to read an old testament book called Job in the bible.

I couldn’t understand why I felt so strongly all year that the combination I was on was the best chance I had for my cancer to respond to treatment, that God had made it all possible to go ahead when it seemed so impossible to do, and then fail so miserably. I felt like he led me up the garden path only to be left devastated. I shook my fists at him yet again, just the same way I had started the year.

So I read Job, thinking that I would find some justification for what I was feeling. But that wasn’t the case at all. If anything, it was completely the opposite. Firstly, Job was God’s pride and joy. God was very pleased with Job, and Job really was incredibly good. He sacrificed not only for his own self but also for his children. He had such a reverence for God and was very blessed. I can’t claim that. I felt screwed. Then Satan tells God that Job only loves him because of the blessings that God had given him, and so God allows Satan to take away everything from Job, his property, his children and his wealth. And Job didn’t curse God at all. He knew that God had the right to give and to take away. His response to his loss was impressive. Again, I can’t claim that. I felt more screwed. Then Satan thinks Job’s response to God is such because he himself physically hasn’t been harmed. So God allows Satan to cause physical suffering to Job without death. And Job’s response was to love God for God, not for what he gave him or didn’t, but because he understood who God was and that God deserved his allegiance. Again, I can’t claim that. I felt even more screwed. Job’s wife encouraged Job to curse God and die, his friends encouraged him to confess his sins and repent and Job stood his ground. He had done nothing wrong to deserve the calamity that fell upon him. He was righteous and God sided with him, even after reiterating his greatness, God agreed with Job. At this point I was battered. I couldn’t claim that righteousness. I was in big trouble.

While I was reading the book of Job, I was contemplating Psalm 13. I was very disappointed with God and I questioned my faith.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

The psalmist here also felt abandoned by God. But there is a choice for the psalmist- to abandon God or to trust in his unfailing love. I had to make the same choice- To trust or to abandon. And so I prayed, how do I trust in your unfailing love here God? And the answer is always the same. It has been the same all my life. God’s unfailing love led me to the cross of Jesus. Where do I see his love? Isn’t it in Jesus? How do I know he loves me? Isn’t it because Jesus died for me? Does he promise me healing this side of heaven? No. Does he make me as righteous as Job? Only because Jesus could make that happen. Am I really screwed? Only if I trust in my own goodness and clearly, that was never going to work for me. If I continue to put my trust in Jesus then I know I’ll be ok.

And so the thinking it out all again of course at a deeper level, knowing that if worse came to worse, God will look after my family. They belong to him more than they belong to me. And so again, I lean on Jesus and prayed that he would carry me through, that his will be done and that I will trust in his unfailing love.

So come the beginning of January and I was on a new treatment plan, one that promised nothing and hoping it would ease the discomfort I was in. I nearly cried when the cannula went in as I had hoped that my chemo days were over and they were just beginning again. Holding back the tears, I had Herceptin again and a new chemo called carboplatin.

I wasn’t sure how my body would respond but I certainly didn’t expect to be feeling so good. My body was relieved to not be on keytruda anymore and the chemo was very manageable and gentle, and I had no problems with Herceptin either. The second night was fairly horrendous as my oncololgist thought I should try morphine for pain relief but that did nothing for the inflammation that flared up especially in my leg. It was a night of no sleep and the next morning I could barely walk. I thought blow it, I’m just going to have ibuprofen, and I felt so much better. After explaining what had happened a few days later, he agreed to keep me on the anti-inflammatory drugs. Over the counter ibuprofen and voltaren. I am also on a small dose of steroids for the swelling and it works as an anti-inflammatory drug as well. I feel like a new woman.

Jeremy called me Lazarus as he was very perplexed about the change in my health. From one morning not being able to walk far, to the end of that week being able to walk the 902 stairs of Jenolan caves. In one big sense, I do feel resurrected. And for that I am grateful. My energy is back, my leg is healing and I am able to get out and about and enjoy the school holidays with my children. School starts back for staff at the end of this week and I feel ready for the challenge for the year ahead.

God has been extra merciful to me in allowing me to continue living with a disease that should have wiped me out already. There is a chance that the keytruda will enable the drugs that I am on to work more effectively and for that I am still hopeful that I will be able to see out another year.

I nearly gave up on everything but now I feel I have been given another opportunity. I am becoming better at living more in the moment and simplifying life. I don’t worry about tomorrow, because I am grateful for today. Jesus was so right when he said , 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? (Luke 6:27) It’s not checkmate yet.

So now I am again determined to stay on top of this disease and not give up. I feel energised to keep researching what I should try next. And I am determined to keep trusting in God’s unfailing love and be grateful for the life I live.

Please keep praying for my family, as my father continues to frail. More family are expected from Syria this year and the adjustments to life in Australia can be overwhelming, but their resilience and appreciation is incredible. Pray for my husband Jeremy that God will strengthen him to continue to lead our family and provide the support that we all need. And pray God will continue to be merciful over my life, to keep doing what I am doing and that he protects my faith and that I continue to trust in his unfailing love. He is a good, good father.