A diagnosis of stage four cancer would be a challenging time for anyone and that was the case for Tony Dowling. But Tony had a weapon that helped him through some of the darkest days of his life. He had a faith in God that would bring him through to remission.

Tony Dowling with his family

Tony Dowling, his wife Tracy and two sons, Max (far left) and Noah. PICTURE: Supplied.

Growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney in the 70s and 80s, Tony said he had a blessed life.

“Like most kids when I left school, I thought about what I wanted to do,” he said. “I liked school and I liked working with kids so it made sense to go to uni and study to be a teacher.”

“When mum got sick, I got pretty angry at God. She never swore, smoked and went to church every Sunday so when she left, I was pretty mad. I couldn’t see how a good God would do that. I was pretty far away from the Lord at that stage of my life.”

- Tony Dowling.

It was during this time his mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer and given only six months to live.

“She lived for another six years before it finally got her,” Tony said. “I was 20 at the time and going through uni and when I look back now, I know it was a pretty tough time in my life as I was close to my mum.”

Tony said he went off the rails after that and despite a Catholic upbringing through school and regular attendance at church, turned his back on God.

“When mum got sick, I got pretty angry at God,” he said. “She never swore, smoked and went to church every Sunday so when she left, I was pretty mad. I couldn’t see how a good God would do that. I was pretty far away from the Lord at that stage of my life.”

Fast forward a few years and Tony met Tracy, they married and were blessed with two little boys Max and Noah.

Despite his enmity towards God, Tony had his older son baptised in the church where he grew up.

“Tracy asked me a simple question which was really annoying but got the conversation started,” laughed Tony. “She asked ‘If you say you don’t believe in God, why did you get him baptised?’”

Tracey started going to church and attended a Bible course, which Tony watched with interest.

“I was seeing her journey [of faith] and thought that was pretty cool so I started going to church with her,” he said. “One day I was sitting there and having hot flushes when they did an altar call. I thought ‘No way’, but something inside me made me rise up and I went. So we started going to church regularly and the kids grew up in kid’s ministry and went to the local Christian primary school where Tracy now works.”

Little did Tony know his decision to come back to God would prepare him for the next challenging step in his journey.

“In 2018 my eldest sister got diagnosed with breast cancer,” he recounted. “I was praying one morning and felt a prompting to get a check up. Because of mum’s history I needed to have a colonscopy and the result was a tumour the size of a ping pong ball. The doctor said it was serious and one of the largest tumours he had ever seen.”

The tumour was removed but further tests showed the cancer had spread to the lungs and was at stage four, a devastating diagnosis.

“I went through some pretty insane chemotherapy, then I had the middle right lobe of my lungs removed and half the top right lobe removed, then more chemo,” said Tony. “I got down to 63 kilograms - for a six foot, two inch guy, there was nearly nothing left of me.”

Tony Dowling left with Neil James

Tony Dowling (left) with Neil James. PICTURE: Supplied.

During this time, however, instead of turning his back on God, Tony knew He was right there with him.

“I knew He had me and that it wasn’t Him who gave me cancer,” he said. “I learnt a lot and read a lot. I had a lot of Scriptures, including the verse ‘Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything’.”

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Tony was putting into practice what God had been training him up for.

“I had grown up and realised it wasn’t that little kid version of God,” he said. “I had that comfort that was more than the doctors and the medical system. The medical profession was amazing and did its job. The surgery removed the tumour and the chemo shrunk it. I was pretty crook and didn’t think I could do it anymore.”

Then finally Tony got the all clear and has been in remission for nearly two years.

“One of the things I loved doing was going to the beach and surfing,” he said. “I met a fellow down there who had been doing sunrise photos for 23 years every day. I kept bumping into him at different beaches. One day I was praying and I distinctly heard ‘Help Neil’. I had no idea who Neil was. Next day I am on the beach and see my photographer mate and decided to introduce myself. He told me his name was Neil White.”

This was enough for Tony to realise God was handing him his passion project and Sunrise Daily was born.

“Neil has a database of 23 years of sunrise photos and with two other business partners, we have commercialised it for him,” said Tony. “People can go to the website, find a sunrise for a day that is meaningful for them and have it framed or printed on canvas.”

Tony said he is excited about Sunrise Daily and feels a bit like Noah and the Ark.

“We have built it and now are waiting for the flood of people to come and buy our photos,” he laughed. “It has also given me the chance to spend time with Tracy and the boys and I am just enjoying every day with God who is bigger than any situation.”

Visit Sunrise Daily at www.sunrisedaily.com.