Su­per­mum Jeni Bonell, mum of 16, beats can­cer

Aussie su­per­mum Jeni Bonell cel­e­brated her re­cov­ery the best way pos­si­ble – by watch­ing two of her chil­dren get mar­ried

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Contents -

Beam­ing from ear to ear, Jeni Bonell opens her front gate, de­liv­ers a warm and gen­er­ous hug and humbly ex­plains the rea­son for the ab­nor­mal si­lence – she’s home alone, a rare oc­cur­rence for this busy Queens­land su­per­mu­mof-16. These days she has plenty to smile about – burst­ing with ex­cite­ment, she can’t wait to share the best news she’s had in a very long time.

“I’m cer­tainly bet­ter since the last time we caught up. That day I was in a hospi­tal bed pre­par­ing quite lit­er­ally for the fight of my life. Fi­nally, we have some good news – just last week we got the doc­tor’s re­port we’ve been pray­ing for – a 100 per cent clean bill of health!” says Jeni.

It was May last year when the woman dubbed the back­bone of the Bonell fam­ily faced life-threat­en­ing throat surgery to re­move her thy­roid after a num­ber of can­cer­ous nod­ules were only dis­cov­ered after she went to her doc­tor with a nag­ging cough.

“It was a slow re­cov­ery. I lost my voice – some­thing Ray and the brood qui­etly en­joyed! I’m the mil­i­tary mum – you have to be, so I had to rely on sign lan­guage and the white­board – the soft, dul­cet tones didn’t cut it! she laughs. “I never did get back my singing voice. I love to sing, it’s a ma­jor part of my life, but as some­one said re­cently, God doesn’t need you to be in tune to use your voice.”


Jeni, 49, can’t praise the doc­tors enough – her ded­i­cated med­i­cal team are con­fi­dent they have taken out all the can­cer, which means she did not re­quire any more on­go­ing treat­ment. For now, all her mar­gins are clear.

“I’ve had to find a new way to live life fear­lessly, know­ing it’s a type of can­cer that could come back. For the next 15 years I will be reg­u­larly tested – it’s just how it is, and I ac­cept that,” she says. All 16 kids, rang­ing in age from four through to 28, lifted their game to help get Mum back on her feet. Jesse, 28, Brooke, 27, Claire, 24, Natalie, 23, Karl, 21, Sam, 20, Cameron, 18, Sab­rina, 17, Tim, 15, Bran­don, 13, Eve, 12, Nate, 11, Rachel, nine, Eric, eight, Damian, seven, and even lit­tle “bubby” Katie, four, hap­pily did their bit.

“We never hid it and we were 100 per cent trans­par­ent through­out. We had mixed re­ac­tions – some qui­etly cried, oth­ers ques­tioned why this in­sid­i­ous thing had come into our lives,” says Jeni.

“The greater church and school com­mu­ni­ties de­serve a gold medal. Night after night they ar­rived with the evening meal. That’s a feat in it­self –cook­ing for the Bonells is no easy task!”

When Toowoomba cou­ple Ray and Jeni made the de­ci­sion they wanted a big fam­ily, they never pre­pared them­selves for what hap­pens when the kids get older – they get mar­ried! With so much to look for­ward to, the Bonell fam­ily had even more cause for cel­e­bra­tion re­cently after two of their brood tied the knot.


“Good­ness me, it’s hard work all this wed­ding plan­ning, and I can’t imag­ine dress­ing ev­ery­one for an­other 14!” says Jeni.

In Oc­to­ber, daugh­ter Brooke mar­ried long-time love Jamie. The pair opted for a lively gar­den wed­ding rather than a church.

“Karl, our 21-year-old, he’s def­i­nitely our stead­i­est ship. He mar­ried beau­ti­ful Claire in March this year and chose a tra­di­tional church wed­ding. He’s fifth gen­er­a­tion from my side of the fam­ily to marry in the Toowoomba Cathe­dral – it was a won­der­ful day,” says the proud mum.

And in more good news, el­dest boy Jesse – who at 28 al­ready has three houses in his prop­erty port­fo­lio – is en­gaged to his “soul­mate” April, while third­born Claire re­cently an­nounced her en­gage­ment to Daniel, who she met at an old-time dance.

“So far we’ve been very lucky. The older ones all work and are com­pletely in­de­pen­dent as we’ve raised them to be,” says Jeni. “Though I won’t sug­ar­coat it – like any fam­ily we have chal­lenges, and we’re a long way off be­ing per­fect!”

While Jeni has not ruled out

‘I’ve had to find a new way to live life fear­lessly’

wel­com­ing an­other child of their own to Aus­tralia’s big­gest fam­ily, re­al­is­ti­cally she un­der­stands “na­ture might put a stop to that”. These days she’s more ex­cited about the pit­ter-pat­ter sounds of the next gen­er­a­tion.

“We’re al­ways open to be­ing blessed again but Ray has just turned 50, though we al­ways say it ain’t over till it’s over! We’ve never put pres­sure on our kids – we want them to first en­joy their lives to­gether. No grand­ba­bies yet but we’re ex­pect­ing a whole bunch in one go... then I will be back in baby heaven again!”

wed­dingg 1 Jeni’s son Karl mar­ried Claire...

wed­ding2g ...while daugh­ter Brooke mar­ried long-time love Jamie.

After be­ing given a clean bill of health, the mum-of-16 has plenty to smile about! Now

THEN Jeni had an op­er­a­tion to re­move her thy­roid.

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