A victory over multiple cancers reminds Gwen of who looks after her through every trial
Some have life easy but Gwen Brownley was never one of them.
From birth, Gwen's father despised her because she was born out of wedlock and developed epilepsy from a young age.
"My father made it clear that he never wanted me. He rejected me because I was the result of an affair he'd had," Gwen explains sadly.
"He literally told me, 'I hate you so don't even think about coming to my funeral'."
For a young girl, to be scorned by the man who is supposed to love her most, Gwen knew she had to find someone out there who would look after her in times of need.
As an early teen she attended a youth group at a local church searching for a place to belong and to be loved.
"One Friday night at the youth group a speaker shared about Jesus Christ and a Heavenly Father who loves me," Gwen recalls.
"He shared that we will all face battles in life but we can find assurance of eternal life with God in heaven if we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour."
Hearing that there was a Heavenly Father who cared deeply enough to send Jesus, God the Son, to die in her place resonated deep inside Gwen.
"That night I surrendered control of my life over to God, trusting that He would not only forgive me for my sins but would help me through the hard times I was experiencing," she says.
After that things did not get easier. In fact Gwen suffered through nine bouts of cancer amidst other physical and emotional issues.
"In late 1994, after previous cancers, I was found to have cancer in both breasts," she recalls.
A further examination by doctors revealed that Gwen also had advanced cancer in the cervix and uterus. She was not expected to live beyond the New Year.
“If I’m to die then I’m prepared for it”"I was alone in Australia with no family, so the news just tore me apart. I broke down many times crying out to God," she says.
Despite her grief, Gwen decided to thank God for the strength she had and knew He would help her through, just as He had always done.
"The thought of death crossed my mind," she recalls, "but when I got over the initial shock of the news, my heart was not troubled. I knew I was prepared to die if it was in God's timing. I was blessed to have amazing support from the local shopping centre staff and my church family but knowing God loved me and was there for me was my greatest comfort."
With her eyes and her thoughts centred on Jesus Christ and the suffering He had been through on the cross, Gwen knew she was prepared to meet her Saviour in heaven.
"If it wasn't for my faith in Jesus, it would have been impossible to get through this crisis alone," she says.
Of all the treatments available, Gwen chose surgery alone, and explained to those who asked why, "If I'm to die then I'm prepared for it."
Gwen says she had an inner conviction that God would come through for her just as He had always done in past circumstances.
"After praying for hours while awaiting surgery I simply said to God, 'I don't know what you want Lord but I surrender'. That moment I felt a great weight lift off my shoulders," she recalls.
"When I woke up from the major operation the doctor was surprised at how well things had gone, saying 'I don't know how but you've come out in flying colours even though you had one foot in the grave. We didn't expect you to leave theatre!'"
Yet over two decades later, Gwen smiles as she says, "After a hysterectomy and operations to remove the cancer in the cervix and uterus, I was informed that my breasts had been miraculously healed at the same time!"
While there are many who may not survive the vicious attack of cancer, Gwen says, as a Christian, there is no fear in life or death with God on your side.
"As the Bible puts it: 'For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!'" she concludes with reference to Philippians chapter one verse 21.