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Silver linings


When a devastating health scare pulled the rug from under Jim and Reeva Cecil’s life in Adelaide, the pair turned to God to help them through the terrifying time. The couple shared their story and the Bible passages that navigated them through the storm with KATIE SPAIN.

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January 3 will always be a special day on Jim and Reeva’s calendar. It was the day their daughter Rebecca was born; a day Jim almost didn’t live to see.

The couple had waited a decade for news that Reeva was pregnant, only to be told just months later that Jim had an aggressive form of lymphoma.

“At the start of the pregnancy Reeva was very sick so I took care of her,” says Jim.

“Then I developed a severe cough and was bedridden.”

X-rays and a CT scan followed.

“When my GP called and told me to come in straight away, I knew something was wrong but I never imagined it would be cancer,” he says.

Job 2:10 – Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?

“Reeva was five and a half months pregnant. We cried, even my GP cried because he’d known us for nine years, since we moved from India to Adelaide.”

That night, unable to sleep, Reeva messaged friends requesting support through prayer.

“I was born and raised in a Catholic family in India,” Jim says.

“My mother was raised in the Catholic faith and I was raised that way. We lived near a church and I was always there during childhood.”

Jim began pouring over his Bible.

“My cancer diagnosis was on September 24 and my chemotherapy started at the end of October. I realised this was definitely God’s purpose. This is not a curse. We’ll send it to Jesus Christ and let’s see.”

Wisdom 16:12-22 – For neither herb nor poultice cured them, but it was your word, O Lord, that heals all people.

The lymphoma started on his lungs and spread very quickly.

“By the time his PET scan results came, it had already reached stage four; into his chest and bones,” Reeva says.

“By the time his chemo started it had also progressed to his jaw.”

“At this point, Jim surrendered the situation to Jesus Christ. He told me ‘we will fight, we won’t give up because our baby is coming; I will not die, I will see my baby and I will take care of her’.”

Reeva also looked for silver linings.

“When Jim was diagnosed with cancer, my pain disappeared and didn’t come back. God didn’t want us to be in too much pain,” she says.

“Without family here, one of us needed to be able to support the other.”

Jim endured six cycles of intensive chemotherapy.

“I was very sick during that time but I read the whole Bible for two and a half hours a day during the course of that treatment. Yes, the chemotherapy helped me but I believe the Word of God helped me more.”

All the while, friends and acquaintances across the globe prayed for the family and for his recovery.

“It helped my confidence and my positivity was very high,” says Jim.

“I told Reeva I’d never cry for cancer, I’d only cry for Jesus because cancer can never defeat me. I’m always happy and cheerful and when people visited, I wouldn’t speak about cancer, I only wanted to think about Jesus.”

Reeva smiles. “They came here to comfort him and he’d end up comforting them! He got courage from God and because of his belief that he would recover, I didn’t fear it either.  The first two days after his diagnosis were extremely hard but we knew God had a plan.”

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The couple will never forget the moment Rebecca came into the world.

“It was awesome,” Jim says.

Two days before the birth he was admitted to hospital again.

Reeva had her heart set on her husband joining her during labour.

“We didn’t know how that could be possible so my gynaecologist worked with his haematologist and they made sure they let him in. It was like he received more care than me during the labour because he had severe bone pain during the chemo cycle and it was very cold in there so they made sure he was comfortable. It was a real blessing. Without their help it simply wouldn’t have been possible.”

Isaiah 58:11 NRSV – The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

“When I returned home, I sat in our front room and read the Bible and prayed the Rosary for four or five hours a day,” Jim says.

“The Blessed Sacrament, Word of God, personal prayer, Way of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Rosary were the weapons that brought victory over the cancer. I spread that hope to Reeva because she was looking after me until family could visit from India and Dubai.”

When Reeva’s mother Rani Cecil and sister Renita and brother-in-law Jibi arrived to lend a hand in December, the support was priceless.

“Neither of us were able to work and we wondered how we’d survive as we were not eligible for any welfare payments being new permanent residents,” Reeva says.

“Then Jim had a message from Jesus, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, from the Lord’s Prayer. From then until now we’ve been looked after by Jesus in abundance and we also got approved for welfare payments.”

Friends, parishioners and members of the Syro-Malabar Church community dropped meals off for the family at their greatest time of need.

“God didn’t want us to get more stressed so he held our hands and provided us with every sort of comfort he could so we didn’t have to worry about anything,” says Reeva.

Jim agrees. “You wouldn’t believe it but I’d be resting on the couch talking about a certain craving I had for a specific Indian dish and a day or two later it would arrive on our doorstep. That happened eight or
10 times.”

They were heart-warming and humbling moments.

“The prayer support we received from our parish priest Fr Siby Kurian (Syro Malabar Community) was immense,” he says.

“Fr Selva Raj from Clearview/ Kilburn Parish also made the effort to bring Blessed Sacrament home during this time.”

These simple things lifted his spirits. Like the moment close friend, Dubai-based Mathew Thomas, attended the Synod of Bishops in Rome where he visited Pope Francis and asked the Pope to pray for Jim.

“The Pope prayed for me, so did a lot of Cardinals and Bishops. I’m sitting here today in front of you now because prayer works.”


Romans 8: 35-37 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered”. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us.

Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV – For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

Now, in “100 per cent remission”, Jim says he is still forced to take things easy (for now) but looks forward to being a father and role model to Rebecca.

“Experiences like this make you do a U-turn in life,” says Jim, who worked in a 5-star hotel in India and managed a service station in Adelaide.

“Before this we planned to buy a house, a new car, travel Australia and live a good life but God’s plans were different.

“His plan for us was feeding the poor, starting a mission and sharing faith through spiritual tourism.”

“Cancer is a blessing for those who love, believe and put their trust in the Lord. I had two cancers; one was cancer in the body and the other one was cancer in the mind. Jesus healed both the cancers together and made me a new person.”

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