ARIELLE Angwin loves painting, ballet, practising her writing and pretending to be characters from her favourite television shows.
She can’t wait to walk through the gates of Christ the King Primary School, Graceville, for the first time this week.
In the weeks leading up to her first school day, the joyful five-year-old woke up at 5am with her uniform on, dashing into her parents’ bedroom asking to go to school.
It’s hard to tell that Arielle, which means “lioness of God”, was once a baby fighting for her life after being born at just 27 weeks gestation and weighing only 605 grams.
Mum Eleanor suffers from lupus anticoagulant and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, auto-immune conditions that affected her two pregnancies, resulting in the early birth of first child Arielle and second child Nathaniel, born at 33 weeks.
“I’d say, with Arielle, when we first found out what was happening with her, we knew things were going pear-shaped,” Eleanor said.
“It was a big shock.
“Even though I was praying and I wanted to trust that it was meant to be, I was emotionally a wreck, and very fragile, which is very human.”
Doctors advised Eleanor and husband Tony, a speech therapy lecturer at the University of Queensland, that Arielle’s condition could result in speech difficulties, or even develop into multiple sclerosis or other serious conditions.
For the years of her life, Arielle has received speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, and made visits to the paediatrician and optometrist assessing her progress.
Arielle even signed for the majority of her early life, as Mum, a special needs educator, and Dad, who works in speech therapy, knew sign language.
Arielle is now bright, bubbly, highly energetic and talkative, showing no signs of lasting problems.
“I will get so bored because it (school) takes a long time,” Arielle said.
“I want to be a school teacher when I grow up.”
While January marks her first year at Christ the King, and a great joy for her whole family, the month also brings with it a level of uncertainty.
In 2012, when Arielle’s brother Nathaniel was one, Tony was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer.
Weeks later, Eleanor’s father Brian Hammerton, from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Sunnybank, was diagnosed with an incurable form of prostate cancer that has already spread to his bones.
“It’s only through suffering really that you can grow in your faith, I think,” Eleanor said.
“Going through everything we have with Tony, I think we’ve just grown in strength, in trust, in belief that all will be well regardless of what that is.
“I said to Tony, if we hadn’t have been through the kids, I’d really hate to think how I would have coped with Tony’s diagnosis.
“I don’t think I would have handled that as well.
“It’s what they say, every new challenge you face, hopefully you learn and grow.
“I’ve had a lot to get me through it.
“It’s not in my control, not in Tony’s control and nothing the surgeons will do, it’s not in any of our control.
“It’s what will be – the way it plays out is the way God wants it to play out.”
Tony’s treatment plan includes a laparoscopy every six months, as his form of cancer does not respond to regular chemotherapy.
The latest assessment in January came back negative for cancer, however, surgeons said there was an abnormality in his stomach.
See more on the witness of hope and courage from the Angwins next week.