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
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.”
MANY HELPING HANDS
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.