Following the Footsteps of St. Gianna

A Young Woman Who Postponed Treatment for a Tumor Leaves Behind Healthy Son

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By Salvatore Cernuzio

ROME, JUNE 20, 2012 ( Some days ago in the church of Saint Frances of Rome, the funeral was held of 28-year-old Chiara Petrillo, who had suffered for almost two years with a tumor.

She died having postponed treatment that could have saved her, to carry to full term the pregnancy of Francesco, her child.

It was not Chiara’s first pregnancy. A few months after wedding Enrico, she became pregnant with Maria, a little girl who from the first ultrasounds was diagnosed with anencephaly, or a congenital malformation that meant that she would be born either totally or partially deprived of her brain.

The two young spouses accepted this new life, without any hesitation, as a gift from God, despite the fact that doctors tried many times to dissuade them. And they enjoyed all 30 minutes of the little one’s life outside the womb, celebrating her baptism and accompanying her in her “birth in Heaven.”

A few months later, Chiara was pregnant again. However, in this case the joy of the news was also undermined by the first ultrasound, which did not presage anything positive. The child, a boy named David, showed he had no legs.

The two spouses again saw the pregnancy to full term. Towards the seventh month, a new ultrasound revealed additional malformations with the news that their child would not live.

The couple awaited the child’s birth on June 24, 2010, and after celebrating his baptism immediately, accompanied him with prayer in his brief life until his last breath.

After some time another pregnancy came: Francesco. This time the ultrasounds confirmed the child’s good health, however, in the fifth month doctors diagnosed in Chiara a lesion of her tongue that, after a first intervention, was confirmed to be cancer.

From then on she faced a series of battles. However, Chiara and her husband did not lose their faith and they decided once again to say yes to life.

Chiara defended Francesco without a second thought and, though running a great risk, postponed treatment while pregnant. In fact, only after the birth was she able to subject herself to more radical surgical intervention and then to successive cycles of chemo- and radiotherapy.

Francesco was born healthy and beautiful on May 30, 2011; but Chiara, a year later was unable to make it. On a Wednesday, towards noon, surrounded by relatives and friends, she ended the battle against the “dragon” that persecuted her, as she described the tumor, in reference to the reading of Revelation.

An embroidery

“A second Gianna Beretta Molla,” is how she was described by the cardinal vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, who wished to pay his respects to Chiara with his presence, and whom he had met a few months ago together with Enrico.

“Life is like an embroidery of which we do not see the reverse; the disordered part is full of threads here and there; however faith enables us to see a piece of the right side,” said the cardinal. According to him, this is Chiara’s case: “a great lesson of life, a light, fruit of a marvelous divine design that is fleeting, but which is.”

“I don’t know what God prepared for us through this woman, but it is certainly something we cannot lose; hence we gather this legacy that reminds us to give the just value to every small and large daily gesture,” he added.

“This morning we are living what 2,000 years ago the centurion lived when, seeing Jesus die, he said: ‘he was truly the Son of God,’” said the homilist, Brother Vito, a young Franciscan, who assisted Chiara and her family spiritually in the last period, even going to live in their home.

A prayer

“Chiara’s death was the fulfillment of a prayer,” he continued. In fact the young woman, said Brother Vito, “after the medical diagnosis of April 4 that declared her ‘terminally ill,’ asked for a miracle: not healing, but to live these moments of illness and suffering in peace for herself and for the persons closest to her.”

“And we have seen a woman die who was not only serene but happy,” he continued. A woman who lived spending her life for love of others, to the point of confiding to Enrico “perhaps deep down I don’t want healing; a happy husband and a peaceful child without his mother are a greater witness than a woman who has overcome an illness. A testimony that could save so many persons …,” said Brother Vito visibly moved.

Chiara came to this faith little by little, specified Brother Vito, “following the rule learned at Assisi from the Franciscans she so loved: small, possible steps.” A way, he explained, to face the fear of the past and of the future in face of great events, and which teaches to begin from small things. We cannot transform water into wine, but we can begin to refill the jars. Chiara believed this and this helped her to live a good life and, hence, a good death, step after step.”

However, Chiara has now taken a great step: the heavenly marriage with her Spouse “ready for her” – as the young people of her parish group sang – so much so that she was clothed in her coffin with her nuptial gown.

Chiara can now “go to her Maria and David” and “pray for Francesco” as she wrote in the letter left to her son, read by Enrico.

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