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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

052015-wilde-feature-main GREENSBORO — Donielle Wilde, her husband Keith and their 10 children know what it's like to receive a miracle ‒ well, two miracles, actually. One is a healthy little bundle of joy named Sylvia Hope, delivered via C-section after a harrowing pregnancy which was overshadowed by a cancer diagnosis. The other, they say, is a complete healing from that cancer.

The Wilde family's ordeal began when Donielle was nine weeks pregnant. When she met with her obstetrician for a routine ultrasound, he noticed a 5-centimeter mass on her ovary that looked suspicious. Donielle underwent surgery to remove the stage IV tumor, which doctors said they might not have discovered if Donielle hadn't been pregnant.

"All went well," Donielle says, but doctor thought there was still a significant risk of cancer because the tumor turned out to be metastasized from breast cancer that Donielle had fought a decade ago. Her oncologist recommended that Donielle abort her unborn baby girl, then start aggressive chemotherapy to prevent the cancer from spreading further. The tumor, doctors told her, was growing fast, as her pregnant body was feeding the cancer.

Donielle and Keith flatly refused to have an abortion, and Donielle decided to put off chemotherapy until after the baby was born. It was a risky move, but they said they didn't want to put their unborn daughter in harm's way. Instead, they relied on their Catholic faith, praying for the strength to follow whatever would be God's will in their lives.


052015-Update-on-Donielle-Wilde Keith-Sylvia-Hope-Donielle-WildeKeith and Donielle Wilde pose with their little miracle, Sylvia Hope; Pictured at top: A giggling Sylvia Hope on her father's lap. (Photos by SueAnn Howell | Catholic News Herald)"We felt like she was such a blessing, because if she wasn't there growing we would never have known the cancer was there," Donielle explains. "It could have easily killed me. I felt like she had saved my life, and it was my obligation to save hers.

"I wanted to meet her – this beautiful child inside me."

The entire family eagerly awaited the arrival of Sylvia Hope, especially the Wildes' other nine children. "The children were all excited to have another sibling," Donielle recalls.

Prayer also helped Donielle through another challenge in her pregnancy: a large blood clot that broke up and went to both of her lungs.

"I didn't feel anything. I didn't have shortness of breath. I had no pain. I didn't know anything was happening," Donielle describes. "I credit that to the power of prayer. When we did find out that the clot was there, immediately people were praying for our situation."

After that, the rest of her pregnancy went perfectly, she says.

"It was a very joyous time for us with the anticipation of her arrival. I felt like it was one of my easiest pregnancies. I had so much energy! God really blessed us quite a bit."

Doctors continued to monitor her pregnancy, determined to deliver Sylvia Hope as soon as feasible so that Donielle could begin chemotherapy. On Nov. 6, 2014, Sylvia Hope was born via C-section, weighing 7 lbs., 1 oz.

"It was an incredible experience," she remembers. "I'd never had a C-Section. It felt like it was my first time having a baby – it was all different."

Her obstetrician Dr. Lewis Lipscomb, also a Catholic, led them in prayer before entering the delivery room, which Donielle says "just put all of us at such peace."

Donielle wore two religious medals during her pregnancy, one a third-class relic of St. Peregrine and another a second-class relic of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. She asked Lipscomb if he would put them in his pocket during surgery. "He said, 'No, I'm not going to put them in my pocket.' He then placed them around his neck. He handed me a wooden rosary, which was just so beautiful, (and) which I was able to hold during surgery."

The delivery room was crowded with medical staff "because of the uncertainty of the situation," she remembers, and she remained awake throughout the delivery.

"Sylvia came out perfect. There was nothing wrong with her," she says.

Donielle became a little concerned when she overheard Keith and others saying "I've never seen anything like this before!" But there was nothing wrong – it was just that Sylvia Hope was born already with a bottom tooth.

Immediately after the baby was born, doctors performed surgery to check for any cancer, and they removed one cancerous nodule, Donielle says.

"Nothing new grew during the pregnancy, which is extremely unusual," she says. "The cancer should have grown, it should have spread. Scientifically, everything was lined up for that to happen – and none of that happened."

Donielle recovered quickly from both surgeries, and on Nov. 21 returned to her oncologist.

He told her that tests had found no cancer. "You're grossly N.E.D.!" he said. N.E.D. stands for "no evidence of disease," doctors' shorthand for remission.

That, says Keith, "is really remarkable. It has to be one in a million, scientifically. We know in our hearts we were blessed with a great healing from God, no doubt about it."

Lipscomb is pleasantly surprised with how well Donielle is doing.

"It's quite encouraging that she has remained without evidence of disease," he says. "It's important we keep watching her closely in case she should show any signs of recurring disease. I do credit her speedy recovery and condition to her faith and her fervent prayer. She is a courageous woman.

"St. Gianna was someone that she asked for intercession during her pregnancy. It's no accident that she sought her intercession, as St. Gianna was faced with a similar situation in which she also had a tumor in her pregnancy and was told to abort her baby. Fortunately, her baby lived and has her life because of her mother's sacrifice.

"I think that paints a good picture of what Donielle did, too."

Their Catholic faith, Donielle and Keith both say, was instrumental throughout this challenge in their lives.

"The greatest gift I have ever received is my Catholic faith," Donielle says. "I thank my parents often for passing this faith down to me. Living out this love for my faith hasn't always been easy. I have learned it is only in cultivating it that brings about fruition. We must never stay idle, we must never be too busy to pray."

The family has always prayed together, particularly "morning and evening prayers together as a family which would always end with us consecrating ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary," she says, but at the start of Lent "we decided to 'kick it up a notch' by saying the rosary together every evening as part of our Lenten prayers. Even though it was often difficult to get through a rosary with nine children and the oldest was only 12, we persevered and it became easier."

After Lent they continued the nightly rosary and consecration, she says. "As our love for the Blessed Mother grew as a family, we felt the desire to show her our love in return. In May of 2014 I asked my parish priest if he could enroll our family in the brown scapular. He graciously said yes."

The Blessed Virgin Mary had helped lay a strong foundation for what they would have to face, Donielle says as she looks back on the past year. Their prayer life and reliance on the Blessed Virgin Mary helped propel them through the stage IV cancer diagnosis during her pregnancy, she says.

"We felt equipped and ready for anything. That grace and peace was bestowed upon our family through Our Lady of the Rosary and the brown scapular."

Donielle also credits her healing to the intercession of several saints, and the sacrament of anointing of the sick that she received from her priest.

"It is a tremendous blessing to be part of this Catholic faith that through the centuries has been enriched with these beautiful sacraments and sacramentals to help us along the way," she says.

Above all, she says, she and Keith are grateful for the prayers of so many people in North Carolina and around the country.

"It was extremely humbling. At first I felt uncomfortable asking for prayers because I know of many other people suffering or experiencing tragedy that I felt were more in need of prayer than me – as if I was using them all up.

052015-Update-on-Donielle-Wilde Sylvia-Hope-baptismSylvia and Father Joseph Mack at her baptism at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Greensboro. (Photo provided by Donielle Wilde)"Then once again I was humbled. One Sunday at Mass while reciting the Penitential Rite it struck me as we are all saying, 'brothers and sisters ... pray for me to the Lord our God.' There it was, right there in the Mass. That is the Universal Church in action. We are our brothers' keeper, we all need each other on this path to holiness."

To all those who prayerfully accompanied them on their journey Donielle says, "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for imitating Christ's love through your actions of prayer and sacrifice on our behalf."

Lipscomb asks everyone to keep Donielle in their prayers.

"Time will tell," he says. "There's always a chance of recurrence. That is why I continue to pray for Donielle and others should be encouraged to do so as well."

The Wildes view their ordeal not as a test of their faith, but as a way to unite their suffering to that of Jesus Christ on the cross.

"It is only through Him that you will be able to experience the joy of suffering and peace of the unknown," Donielle says. "I told my oncologists that if I made it through my pregnancy, I would do anything they recommended once Sylvia Hope was born. There was never a point that I felt fear.

"Often we need to step back and take a look at the situation we are facing with two sets of lenses: the natural and the spiritual. In my case, it was very easy to discern what to do when the other option was that of taking the life of my child. We need to remind ourselves that the devil wants us to be scared, fearful and in despair. We must rebuke those feelings by placing our trust in God.

"The things my oncologists had predicted to happen, such as an aggressive continued spread of cancer due to the pregnancy producing hormones acting like fertilizer to a plant, didn't happen, and no one knows why."

She adds, "I've come to the realization in my own heart that God wants to perform miracles. We just need to allow Him to do so, giving Him enough room to work and ridding ourselves of anything that is not of God, beginning with fear, anxiety and despair.

"God wants to restore order. We may not always understand His plan, but must trust and hope in difficult circumstances. Be at peace no matter what!"

— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter