The call that brought a mother back from the edge

A woman ready to take her own life and another undergoing chemotherapy. In a moment of divine intervention, they were brought together to achieve a remarkable outcome for both.

A desperately lonely and distressed woman stood on a cliff top high above a coastal city contemplating a leap into oblivion.

Ten or so kilometres away, another woman battling a cruel cancer lay on a hospital bed preparing to receive a chemotherapy injection that would, hopefully, improve her quality of life.

In her desperation, the woman on the cliff top reached for her mobile phone and pressed in a number she had been given to call when life got too tough.

''I don't know what made me make the call to Jayne. I didn't even know her.''

As a nurse inserted a needle into the arm of the woman in hospital, the patient's mobile rang.

The caller was the woman on the cliff top.

The call and its response saved the life of the woman who wanted to know why she shouldn't end it.

She was later to tell the woman who took her call: "While God was healing you [through chemotherapy], you were connected to me through the phone and God was healing me, too."

The women met several times over the following 12 months.

Jayne Wilson went back to work with the Salvation Army's Wollongong-based First Floor Restoration Program after a tough battle with an aggressive cancer, which required several bouts of energy-draining chemotherapy.

Francesca (not her real name) went back to work after a few years of drifting and despair.

The story starts three years ago. Francesca was living with her partner and daughter.

Her partner had drug issues. Francesca also realised she was suffering abuse - mostly psychological. The 17-year relationship ended acrimoniously.

She took her daughter and headed for another city, though the house was in her name.

She was also in an abusive work environment.

She could no longer afford her own accommodation. She and her daughter moved among friends. Her daughter returned to her father for stability.

Francesca moved again. Her partner demanded maintenance for their daughter. Financial pressures were overwhelming.

"I was missing my child, I couldn't eat, I lost energy, I had headaches and pain all the time, I was always tired, I was taking three types of antidepressants and none of them were working," she said.

She arrived in Wollongong mid-2012, started a new job and commenced legal proceedings to get her own house back.

But her lawyers unexpectedly withdrew.

"It was the final straw in years of stress. I went through a long period of sleeplessness. Everything looked black. I had lost my grip on life," she said.

She drove to a cliff top on the Illawarra escarpment behind Wollongong.

"I wasn't thinking logically. I was hysterical. I hadn't slept for 48 hours. I don't know what made me make the call to Jayne. I didn't even know her," she said. "Somebody had given me her number. I can't remember whether I was in my car or standing beside it.

"I made the call. I didn't know she was in hospital. I was screaming. She was trying to calm me. I don't remember much of the conversation.

"But the thing I remember the most is that she said she promised that I would receive the full backing and services of the Salvation Army if I came down from the mountain.

"I thought: 'Wow, a whole army! That meant an army of people who would care'. I needed to hear that. I was a stranger in a strange town. I didn't know anybody other than work colleagues. Now, I had a full army of friends."

Francesca got into her car and drove to meet the people Jayne had arranged.

During a second call on the way to meet Jayne's people, Francesca discovered Jayne was in hospital undergoing cancer treatment.

"I couldn't believe it," she says. "This lady did this for me! I knew then that I could trust her, even though I hadn't been able to trust anybody else."

Francesca has stopped taking antidepressants. She is rebuilding her life with the help of supporters. She started a new job a few months ago and hopes to reunite with her now adult daughter.

"I still have some difficult moments, but Jayne and her team have given me a greater perspective," she says.

"I think I have come out the other end, now. And I am still here! Jayne saved my life. There is no doubt about that. I needed to talk to somebody. She was there for me, even though she had every reason to pass on my call because of her own circumstances."

The Salvation Army's Jayne Wilson. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

The Salvation Army's Jayne Wilson. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

It was also a pivotal moment for Jayne.

Her cancer treatment had been severe.There were times when she wondered if she would ever be able to return to a role she personally developed - a role that has rescued people struggling with addiction, supported members of their families, and assisted police officers and others battling in life.

"I learned even more about the graciousness of God," she says.

"That experience reminded me of Jimmy Little's song Royal Telephone [to God]. As I was having chemotherapy, God was speaking to me and through me to [Francesca]."

This article was first published in the Salvation Army's national Pipeline magazine in December. One week before Christmas, Jayne Wilson returned to Wollongong Hospital for tests. She died on Christmas Day.

If you need the Salvation Army's help visit here. Crisis counselling is available at Lifeline on 13 11 14.


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