At the time Brittany Maynard1 was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer Donielle Wilde, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was given an equally somber diagnosis of stage four breast cancer. The similarities between the two stop there. Donielle was pregnant with her tenth child and was given two unacceptable options that could save her life, abortion or aggressive cancer treatment,2 which might injure her baby. Whereas Brittany chose to die, “on my own terms,” Donielle and husband Keith rejected both options and chose “God’s terms.” They remained upbeat about what might have been a life-ending, dream-shattering choice not knowing that God clearly had other plans.
The path chosen by the couple was not an easy one, yet they never wavered. Along the way they were blessed with supernatural help. A friend of the Wildes put them in touch with Laura Wohlstadter, a Catholic mother in St. Louis, Missouri. Mrs. Wohlstadter had gone through a problem pregnancy some years ago and prayed to Saint Anthony Galvao.3 This recently canonized Brazilian saint is a veritable miracle worker for expectant mothers. Mrs. Wohlstadter eventually gave birth to a baby boy that doctors were certain would never be born and named him Anthony in honor of the great saint. Perhaps he might help the Wildes also.
Donielle immediately took the “pill” sent to her by the Wohlstadters: a piece of paper with the Latin phrase, Post partum Virgo, inviolata permansisti, Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis (After birth, the Virgin remained intact, Mother of God, intercede on our behalf.) She also began the daily novena prayer to Saint Anthony of Saint Anne Galvão.
Choosing a Name
It had not been the custom for the Wildes to find out the sex of their children but they felt the need to find out this time. It seemed necessary, not only because it allowed their other children to pray for the child by name, it also personalized the one she carried in her womb.
When it was determined they were to have a girl, Keith instinctively chose the name Sylvia without realizing its significance. Donielle later researched the name and discovered Saint Sylvia is not only the mother of Pope Saint Gregory the Great but also the patroness of expectant mothers. Her middle name would be Hope: a virtue they would rely upon heavily over the next months.
Doctors needed to deliver the baby as soon as possible so as to begin treatment of the mother and chose to do a C-section on November 6. The much anticipated date finally arrived and Donielle went through a flawless delivery. Thanks to her decision, the world will not be left wondering what the namesake of Saint Sylvia—threatened with extermination before seeing the light of day—might have accomplished in life. All we have to do is wait and see.
What was still left uncertain however, was the health of the mother. She had chosen “God’s terms” but would she, after taking such a risk, live to see her daughter grow up? The answer was not long in coming.
While it is true everyone wanted to see a safe delivery, there was an overwhelming desire for an absolute clean bill of health for someone who selflessly chose to put another human life above her own. Days later, both Donielle and her newborn were discharged from the hospital. The doctor was surprised at how well Donielle was healing. It was strange for a lady who months before had been given the diagnosis of stage four cancer.
Then she received the stunning news. The results of her first upper abdominal CT scan came back negative for blood clots or any signs of cancer. While it was reason for hope, it was by no means time to open champagne bottles. A full body scan and further blood work was scheduled for November 21, to determine if Donielle was entirely cancer free. When that day finally arrived, family and friends rejoiced with the results.
In an e-mail sent out to friends, Donielle said she had been “officially labeled as ‘N.E.D’ which meant, No Evidence of Disease. The scan was perfect and her blood levels, according to doctors, were “exceptionally good.”
“Prayers have been answered!” she continued. “I remain in complete awe of God’s greatness, God’s personal love and God’s mercy! Can’t help but sing ‘Give Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on Earth.’ Thank you for your hours of prayers and continual support over these months!”
“Desire Life like Water and Drink Death like Wine”
During this entire trial, Donielle insisted on downplaying the heroics of her decision and preferred the emphasis be placed on the pro-life message. When we objectively consider the options, there really was no other choice for a true mother. Therefore, her decision is what one would expect.
Nevertheless when surrounded by a world where people choose their own “best interest,” like poor Brittany Manhard, a potentially catastrophic decision like the one taken by Donielle and husband Keith is refreshingly courageous.
G. K. Chesterton once defined courage, as “a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die.” Such a person he continues, “must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference: he must desire life like water and drink death like wine.” How true! This is what we commonly recognize in fearless American servicemen who face death on foreign battlefields. It is no less admirable in the equally courageous act of an anonymous housewife and caring mother who smiles in the face of a deadly disease rather than harm a life given to her by God for safekeeping. William Wallace might say of such a person, “every woman dies but not every woman truly lives.”
- She was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, was given a short time to live, chose to commit suicide and became a poster child for the laws against euthanasia.
- It must be pointed out that no sin is incurred by a mother choosing treatment as long as the procedure is aimed at healing the mother rather than terminating a pregnancy.