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.

I made it to Christmas!! What a year it has been. It didn’t start so well with a cancer in my brain and a craniotomy to get rid of it. Having avoided whole brain radiation I managed to continue working full time despite this ugly hiccup. I have plenty of ups and downs to say the least and God has looked after me despite the range of emotions I have had towards him. The highs were definitely the family holidays to Melbourne and Cairns and going away with Jeremy to Hong Kong, completing programs at school that I had  been working on for 3.5 years and having a HSC chemistry class that although were quite emotional,  worked hard and achieved amazingly. I have been using the SOAP method for bible reading still and managed to read through Hebrews, James, Revelation and in Growth groups, 1 Peter and Isaiah. In Growth Group we also looked at sharing our faith and invited our friends along to come and ask questions. I also got to celebrate Jeremy’s 40th birthday with family and friends and see the kids each celebrate another birthday. My sister’s auto immune disease also finally eased up and I am so encouraged by her response to treatment.

The low lights were the small reoccurrence of the cancer in my brain and my chest cancer continuing to grow. Despite the new costly drugs that I am on, the cancer doesn’t seem to be responding and the side effects are hard to deal with as there seems to be a new one every time. I have had a pretty hard week last week with the muscles in my right leg being strained which I should have got looked at a month ago but kept putting it off. The physio has shown that there are new levels of pain and humiliation to be reached but I’m glad she can treat me. The next day after seeing her I feel very sorry for myself, then the following day is better and the day after I see her again and the cycle is repeated. Also, my father having been paralysed by cancer was terrible though his faith and his presence has been encouraging and it’s good to be able to celebrate Christmas with him.

The end of year events are always a hectic marathon. Juggling dance rehearsals between Gemma and Annalise as well as their dance concerts, making sure outfits for presentation night are all ready and getting them to all their social events which seemed numerous in November sure was a crazy time. However, watching them on the stage performing made it all worthwhile. Annalise also received an academic excellence award coming first in her grade. I not only got to see them start school, I also got to see them finish well. This year they were all involved in a piano concert and even Ethan played Twinkle Twinkle little star on the piano in front of a supportive audience. Knowing nothing about music, I am very proud of them. It was interesting how Jeremy was much more involved in the practicing of their piano music when there was a concert pending!  I always think they sound great.

So all in all an incredible year. I have never thanked God for my cancer, I don’t think I ever will. But it has certainly made me more focussed and increased my capacity in ways that I never dreamed of. It has made me bolder and more productive. But these last couple of weeks have been very humbling as I struggle to walk well and the pain at times has been depressing. Jeremy has been encouraging me to make each day count so it has been nice spending time with my extended family, going to the movies, library, out for morning tea and afternoon tea with the kids.  And they have been wonderful. I am so proud of them.

Meanwhile the preparations for Christmas have finally finished. The Christmas tree has exploded with presents and this year we spend Christmas eve with my extended family from Syria who arrived as refugees. The war in Syria continues to rage on, 6 years now and although the end seems closer, we don’t know how long it will be. It’s sad what has become of this country that for most of my life no one seemed to know anything about it. I feel torn in my prayers, when I plead for my life while millions have been displaced and hundreds of thousands dead. But we continue to pray, because we don’t know what God has install and I keep praying that the gospel will reign in the Middle East once more. And that he will continue to show me mercy.

So keep praying, because although no treatments options have worked for very long, God has sustained me even when the odds are piled against me. And when I doubt his love, I remember the sacrifice he made for me in Jesus, and when I get angry, I remember that Satan will burn for all eternity in hell for this pain and turmoil. Christmas is a time to remember that Jesus is God’s rescue plan for this earth and just like the shepherds 2000 years ago were blown away by his birth, may it give you a renewed sense of hope for the future.

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

Thank you again for your willingness to join me on this journey. I value your prayers, more than you will ever know. I wish you all a very merry christmas and a blessed new year.

It’s been a while since I last updated. Since then I have had 2 rounds of keytruda. After my first round I was in good spirits. It was also the end of the term and I was grateful to be able to celebrate the year 12 formal with my chemistry class. I felt fine. The next day hit me with fatigue. I spent most of the day in bed and the following day was mildly better. Sitting in the sun on the third day and anticipating the long journey to Northern Queensland, I managed to get through the trip awake. I was so glad to be on holidays! Our flights were all on time, and despite getting accommodation wrong on the first night, Jeremy managed to find a place for us to stay and picked up the car we had hired on line without any hiccups.

Northern Queensland did not disappoint. Our first week was spent in beautiful Palm Cove and the warm weather was just what we all needed. Soaking up the sun, swimming in the beach and or pool and just chillaxing in our beautifully freely upgraded 3 bedroom apartment was just bliss. Oh to be there right now. We had a couple of outings that week, to the crocodile farm and a walk down the road in the rainforest across from the beach. Our second week was more adventurous and my energy returned. We spent time in the lava tubes in Undara which was a four hour trip away. The lava tubes were breathtaking; much, much larger than I expected and so much more beautiful. On the way to the Atherton tablelands we stopped by the Hot springs and soaked in the varying hot pools available. We didn’t do the water activities I expected at Lake Tinaroo but we walked around one of the Crater lakes which had a five kilometer circumference. We spent the end of our trip in Port Douglas, had breakfast with the birds and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef. It was truly wonderful and I would happily do it all again.

The second round of keytruda left me with a terrible rash. I managed an excursion to the museum of human disease and messaged my oncology nurse to see what I should do. If only I had waited another 24 hours, I would have been spared a lot of grief. She managed to get me an appointment with a dermatologist whose first name was Pablo and surname sounded like a male appendage. And he was as his name suggested. He had a myriad of young female registrars who were very eager to please and all had a go diagnosing my condition. He had a thick European accent and was slightly patronising but nice all the same. All I wanted was some cream to sooth the rash. And he wanted to make sure he was diagnosing me correctly and wouldn’t prescribe me anything until the results of the biopsy came back, 3 days later. All my skin, every mole was photographed, just in case I might develop melanoma at some point. Not really that great a concern for me at the moment and as Jeremy pointed out, I’m already on the drug for that anyway.  I asked him if taking some phernergan would help and he was fine with that. But warned me that I may have to stop my treatment and scared me greatly. That night ended in tears.

The next day and after taking my phernergan the rash had calmed down a lot. 50% of it was gone. By the time I saw him again it was barely there. And the biopsy showed it was a drug reaction (which I already knew). He looked relieved. I now have 3 stitches on my arm, (after being assured it would only be one) and no need for any creams. They prescribed them anyway. I used it for one night on my foot to see if would make a difference or speed the rash disappearing. Nope. My oncologist spoke highly of him and said that he was the only academic dermatologist he knew and took an interest in the drug. I must say, I never got that impression.

It’s hard to believe now I even went through that. My oncologist did warn me that keytruda was a long term drug and takes a while to kick in. I don’t feel that differently. I wish it was like kadcyla that seemed to clear things up really fast. I am praying that God won’t give up on me and let these drugs do the job. I would so love to be on more family holidays and spend time with my children doing the day to day things. And to this end I labour.

On the weekend we got to celebrate Gemma’s 8th birthday party. It was a science party and so much fun. I was hesitant and sceptical about the theme at first but the kids were so receptive and everything went so smoothly. So thankful that good friends from the Central Coast came and helped out. It was just great.

My father and mother are adjusting well to their circumstances. Thank you for your prayers and your encouragement for them. My sister continues to look better and all her symptoms from her autoimmune disease have cleared up. I am very thankful and deeply encouraged by this.

Thank you for your continued prayers for me. Keep praying. God has been good and merciful to me. I’m greedy for more.

Warning- technical language alert. Skip to last paragraph if the jargon is too much.

Well, I had my scans on Monday which showed a bit of progression. I was feeling quite despondent and sad. I only read them 20 minutes before my appointment this afternoon. Jeremy and I had a cry together and braced ourselves for our oncology appointment. We had been asking since July if we could add keytruda to my treatment. I wasn’t taken very seriously then but Jeremy pushed it harder last visit and I had the guts to speak up too. We followed it up with an email and again he promised to look into it for us. We weren’t really holding our breath. Jeremy had prayed for us before we left. And again, I prayed to God to spare my life for the sake of the children and Jeremy.

I was worried that I would have to end my time with kadcyla, such a great drug, and start on a more traditional chemo. I was not that keen to do that. Begrudgingly trusting myself to God’s will. I wasn’t keen on having keytruda with a more traditional chemo. I would much rather a targeted therapy and I wasn’t keen to do what no one else was doing. I wasn’t even expecting to be allowed to even have keytruda at all. I wasn’t looking forward to that appointment. I thought we missed the opportunity.

We only had to wait 5 minutes and he called us in. We barely sat down and he got started on keytruda and how he thinks it could work for us. I was bewildered. What! Was he sure this was ok? Apparently so! I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. I was delighted; so happy. Just a few minutes before this I was downcast and forlorn. My emotions were like a yo-yo or more a roller coaster in that one hour.

Because we were willing to fund it, and we have treatment at a private hospital, we are able to use this combo. The hope is that the keytruda will allow the kadcyla to work more effectively by stimulating the immune system. We went through side effects which happen in a very small percentage of people, and then went through the options if we weren’t going to take keytruda. Then he admitted that he thought that this was the best option.

We had talked about this combo with Prof Loi in Melbourne back in February. She thought it was a good idea but I should wait and see how kadcyla goes. It really is a now or never opportunity. I can’t believe this is going to be a reality. They are trialling this combination in the USA. So it’s not that out there but still considered unconventional.

Even if it doesn’t work, at least I know I had tried it. It’s good to know that I trying all I can to stay alive and well.

On the way home, tears of joy just poured. I cried on and off all afternoon. Chris Tomlin’s song, Good Good Father kept playing in my head. I no longer felt abandoned. I know that God has always been faithful to me even when I haven’t been faithful to him. He is compassionate and kind and such a good, good father. Whatever happens, I know he will continue to look after my family. I have a lot to be thankful for. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqybaIesbuA

So now, I go back to planning our family holiday to Cairns in 2 weeks time. I have always wanted to see the lava tubes and can’t wait to see them and relax by the beach in warm weather and enjoy my family.

Keep praying for my dad. He is at home now and adjusting to his new living arrangement. Pray for my mother too who continues to do most of the caring.

Keep praying for me, that God will continue to shine his mercy over my life and that I get to see my children grow and finish school and maybe one day hold my grandchildren.