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The Days Ordained for Me — Amy Faustino

In April of 2013, I discovered I was pregnant with our fourth child. My husband Lou and our three children Grace (6), Rocco (5), and Evelyn (3) were so excited. In our joy, we wanted to share our news with family. Lou called his parents, and I called my mom. My mom was thrilled, of course, but the news was tinged with some bittersweetness for both of us. My dad had passed away during my pregnancy with Evelyn, but we had been comforted that at least he had known she was on the way. He would not know or be able to celebrate the coming of this child. Our lives had been in a state of upheaval over the past couple of years, but we had no idea then that it was only the beginning.

The following week, Lou was unexpectedly laid off from work. This was a tough blow; finances were already tight. What were we going to do? One night soon after, we were eating dinner when I began having some serious abdominal pain. We went to the ER, and they ran tests, including an ultrasound which gave us our first glimpse of our child. The nurse said she thought there was some indication that there may have been a second baby who did not make it, but the baby she saw looked fine. Shortly after this, my doctor scheduled a follow up appointment with another ultrasound. Everything still looked good, and I was thrilled to get another peek at our child and to hear the heartbeat. This pregnancy was more difficult than my previous three. I constantly felt nauseous and tired, but I chalked it up to the fact that I was getting older. I was 34 at the time.

At twelve weeks, I had another appointment with another ultrasound. We decided to bring the kids so they could have their first look at their new sibling. They were so excited. As the technician moved the wand over my stomach, we all looked at the tiny baby growing inside. Suddenly, I noticed that the technician was very quiet. My concerns increased when she finished and asked us to wait in an adjoining room. “Something is wrong,” I told Lou. He tried to reassure me, but as the doctor entered, my fears were confirmed. She kindly but quickly came to the point. There was no heartbeat. The baby had died. I felt like someone had slammed the brakes on my life; this was so unexpected. I had not had any bleeding or indication that anything was wrong. She told us that I would need surgery since I had not miscarried on my own. Somehow we got out of the office and into our car, and then the tears just wouldn’t stop. What had begun as such a happy visit had turned into a gnawing grief.

In the days that followed, Lou and I decided that we wanted to have another ultrasound just to ensure there was no mistake in the diagnosis. A week later, I looked once again at our baby on the screen, and the technician confirmed there was indeed no heartbeat. Sadly, I scheduled the surgery, and the following week Lou prayed with me at the hospital before I went in for a D & C. When I awoke after the surgery, the first thing I noticed was that the constant nausea that I had been dealing with for the last three months was gone. At home while I recovered, some friends came by to pray and grieve with us.

Not long after, I unexpectedly got a phone call from a nurse telling me that my aunt was in a hospital in Boston and wasn’t expected to live long. I went to see her, and I was shocked at how frail she looked. The nurse had to wake her when I arrived, and she remained conscious for only a few minutes. I sat beside her bed and talked to her. I didn’t know if she could hear me or not, but I found a Bible and read to her from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes. I stayed with her for a couple of hours, but as the afternoon wore on, I had to get back to my family. The hospital called me early the next morning; she had passed away during the night.

Shortly after this, I had my post-surgery appointment. I felt fine, back to normal, and expected that it would be routine. My doctor informed me that when she had done the D & C, she realized that I had had a partial molar pregnancy. Instead of one sperm fertilizing one egg, two sperm fertilize one egg, and abnormal cells begin to grow. In a full molar pregnancy, the baby grows abnormal cells, but in a partial molar pregnancy like mine, the placenta grows abnormal cells. She told me that less than 1% of pregnancies are molar pregnancies, and even fewer are partial molar. “You should be just fine. In very rare cases, these abnormal cells can become cancerous, but don’t worry,” she reassured me, “I’ve never had a case of that happening. I just have to tell you the risks.” This explained why I had felt so much sicker with this pregnancy. Unconcerned, I had some blood work done and left.

About a week later, I began to have some bleeding. Thinking I was just getting my period back after being pregnant, I wasn’t alarmed, but I left a message for my doctor anyway. When she called me back, she told me that it wasn’t a period. My blood work results were showing that my HcG levels (a pregnancy hormone) were still high and increasing; basically, she said my body was acting like it was still pregnant. Something was definitely wrong. She said that she would refer me to an oncologist in Boston right away. She told me that if the bleeding worsened, I would need to go the ER because I was hemorrhaging. I was shocked. Oncologist? As in a cancer doctor? I felt fine. I’d never been sick with anything serious in my life. I was only 34; it just didn’t seem possible. Maybe it was all just precaution.

Lou and I went to Boston to meet with the oncologist. Without hesitation, he told us that I had a rare form of cancer called gestational trophoblastic disease; those abnormal cells from the partial molar pregnancy were cancerous. To put this in perspective, there was a less than 1% chance of me having a partial molar pregnancy; of that 1% with partial molar pregnancies, there was a 1% chance of it turning cancerous. In God’s providence, I was that 1 out of 10,000. Even more amazing, my oncologist was the top U.S. specialist for my extremely rare type of cancer, and he was only an hour away from my house! While we tried to absorb this news, the Lord gave us an unexpected ray of hope as the doctor told us, “If you have to have cancer, this is the one to get because it’s treatable.” The rest of the appointment included tests to see if the cancer had spread (which, thankfully, it hadn’t) and setting up my first chemo appointment. I would have to go to Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston for treatment as the local hospitals were not equipped to treat my kind of cancer.

For the next three months, I had chemo every two weeks. Chemo days were truly an all-day affair. Checking in, waiting, blood work, waiting, meeting with doctors, waiting, getting the infusion, waiting, getting medication, and finally being able to go home. The Lord was so gracious. On those days, two sweet friends rotated taking care of my kids, each of them driving over an hour to spend the whole day with my kids and then cook dinner for us. Before my first appointment, I envisioned myself stuck in notorious Boston traffic, vomiting on the side of the road from the chemo. In God’s kind grace, that never happened. As it turned out, nausea was not one of my symptoms. The biggest challenge for me was the extreme exhaustion. Sometimes just getting up and moving felt like such an effort. My hair did start falling out, but amazingly, although it thinned considerably, I didn’t lose all of it. My skin felt like I had a sunburn. My sense of taste was distorted, and I developed painful sores in my mouth. As treatment progressed, the veins in my arms turned black as the nurses had an increasingly difficult time putting in an IV for the infusion. Yet not every day was terrible. God was so merciful. The first few days after treatment were the worst, but by the end of the two week cycle, I would have a couple of days where I felt almost normal. Those days were a gift, especially as our oldest daughter’s 7th birthday fell on one of those good days. I was grateful to be able to take her shopping and spend some special time together.

Lou was so faithful to take care of me and our children. The Lord providentially used him getting laid off so that he could be with us when we needed him most. Lou cooked, cleaned, and did the laundry. He came with me to every single one of my chemo sessions; he even spent his fortieth birthday with me at the cancer center. I still get teary when I think of that. He would joke about our “dates at Dana Farber,” like it was some hotspot. Even when things were hard, he could always make me laugh; he still does.
The Lord showed me that I still had so much to be grateful for. At the cancer center, we would see others suffering far more than I was; it was especially heart wrenching to walk down the halls and see children waiting for cancer treatment. Friends we had lost touch with over the years heard about our situation and called or sent cards and sometimes money. Some close friends surprised us with huge grocery delivery. All of my treatment and medications were covered by our state insurance. (And just one of my medications would have cost $500 per session!)

During my treatment, we unexpectedly got a notice from our landlord. He wanted to sell the house we were renting; we had a month to move. What were we going to do? By this time, Lou had found part time work as a hospice chaplain, but our financial situation was still very delicate. We prayed, remembering the Lord knows all our needs (Matthew 6:25-26). About a week later, my phone rang with an unfamiliar number. When I answered it, the man on the other end introduced himself as the lawyer for aunt’s estate. (Remember the aunt that had passed away?) He informed me that my aunt had left her condo to my mom and me. Lou, who was standing nearby hearing all this, immediately said, “Ask him if we can live in it!” The Lord provided exactly what we needed when we needed it. We moved into my aunt’s condo and only had to pay the monthly condo fees, which was far less than the rent we had been paying for our house.

Even with all the blessings, there were times that I felt frustrated by my exhaustion and inability to do much. Some days it was all I could do to stay awake until the kids had their afternoon rest time. I was used to being “mom,” the one everybody came to for help with something. Now I felt useless and burdensome, but the Lord used that to humble me and to remind me that my identity was in Him and not in how useful or capable I was. I found comfort in Psalm 139:16, remembering that the Lord has ordained all my days. I didn’t beat some crazy odds to get this rare cancer; the Lord had planned this for me, and I could trust Him. In the words of Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Here was hope; I could cling to Jesus. He would carry me through whatever He had for me.

And He absolutely did. After three months of chemo, my HcG levels were back to normal, and everything looked good. I continued to have monthly blood work for the next year to make sure the cancer did not return. By the Lord’s kind grace, a year later, I had my last blood test and was cleared to resume my normal life. I shed tears of joy at God’s mercy in showing me His great grace through every step of the ordeal. Today, it’s been ten years since I was diagnosed with cancer, and I am still healthy. The Lord even blessed us with another child, Gloria, in 2016.

“Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Psalm 106:1

Hope & Helps

1) What Scripture did you cling to on the hardest days/nights?
Psalm 139, Matthew 6:25-26, James 4:13-15, John 6:68

2) What hymns and songs comforted you? 
“How Firm a Foundation,” “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right,” “Be Still, My Soul,” “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” and “I Have a Shelter in the Storm” by Sovereign Grace

3) What did people do to minister to you?

  • Be a good listener
  • Take the initiative through phone calls, cards, or just asking to stop by and visit
  • Pray together
  • Help with childcare and meals
  • Show care/concern for my children and how they are dealing with everything
  • Help with moving and cleaning
  • Ask for updates to pray more specifically (and also to rejoice in God’s provision!)

4) What should people not say/do to others in similar circumstances?

  • Do nothing/ignore the situation
  • Leave it to the ailing person to call or ask for help because they likely will not
  • Overwhelm them with “You should try/do…”

5) What hope has Jesus given you in your loss?
I remember reading James 4:13-15 while I was going through chemo. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” I had read those verses many times before, but for the first time, I noticed a little phrase in verse 15–“we will live.” I knew I should submit my plans to the Lord’s will, but this verse was saying that I should also submit my very existence! If the Lord wills, then I will continue to live tomorrow. I found great hope and comfort in that reminder because I know His will is perfect. He ordained this for me, and He was working through it to complete His good work in me. (Phil. 1:6)

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