Threatened by brain cancer, she chose an experimental treatment so as not to harm her baby.
It was August of 2013 when Angela Bianco, a 26-year-old Italian woman in the third month of pregnancy, fainted at home after a terrible headache. Taken to the emergency room at a nearby hospital, she was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage, which was responsible for her losing consciousness. As soon as she woke up, she was transferred to a hospital in Rome where, after a biopsy, her worst fears were confirmed: she had cancer. Her story was reported by Nicola Nicoletti in the Italian magazine Credere, shared on website Famiglia Cristiana.
“The verdict was terrible: a malignant brain tumor,” Angela told Nicoletti. “I thought about my own life, but also about the little three-month-old girl who was living inside me. In just a few seconds, the images of my life story flashed before my eyes like a movie. I told the doctors that I didn’t want to abort; I wanted my daughter—a great gift—to be born, at any cost.”
Having ruled out the possibility of having an abortion, Angela was in a difficult position. “I needed advice, a rock to hold onto, so I turned to Dr. Salvatore Ronsini, the gynecologist who had been taking care of me throughout,” she told the reporter.
Pilgrims in Lourdes
A group of pilgrims from Angela’s region of Italy happened to be in Lourdes during those days of August, and they heard of Angela’s dramatic situation. They prayed intensely for her at the location of the Virgin’s apparitions to St. Bernadette, the grotto of Massabielle. Among the pilgrims was one of Angela’s neighbors, who was also the classmate of a doctor, Pantaleo Romanelli, who could perhaps help Angela with a treatment for her tumor that wouldn’t harm her unborn child.
An innovative treatment that would protect the baby
As it turns out, among the possible treatments Angela had been offered was the possibility of undergoing a cutting-edge treatment with CyberKnife, an instrument developed for radiation therapy that makes it possible to target the area of the tumor with great precision. Providentially, Angela’s neighbor knew Romanelli, the Italian neurosurgeon who was using precisely this technique in the United States.
Divine Providence had opened a window of Hope for Angela. “I thought that this might be the solution, to save the baby and to save my own life too,” she told Credere.
Bureaucratic delays and going to Greece
Unfortunately, the bureaucratic process wasn’t going as fast as the situation required. The time required for the paper work to carry out this medical intervention overseas, given that it was not available in Italy, was taking forever, while the tumor continued to grow unchecked.
“In the end, with Professor Romanelli, we decided to carry out the operation in Greece. We flew to Athens as fast as we could to use CyberKnife, avoiding damage to the fetus,” she explained to Nicoletti.
Both mother and daughter are saved
The operation, which took place during the 5th month of pregnancy, managed to save the life of both the mother and the daughter she was carrying in her womb. The battle wasn’t over, though, and after Francesca Pia was born, Angela had to begin chemotherapy.
“I was saved thanks to my faith”
In all this difficult trajectory, Angela always turned to her faith. In this, she has been supported by the spiritual guidance of a priest, Fr. Luigi Maria Marone.
“Prayer helped me a great deal during this difficult time. I was saved thanks to my faith. The pastor urged me to give my bride’s veil to the Immaculate Virgin. The day it was put on her head, was the last day of chemo after very difficult times,” she told Credere.
Francesca Pia in honor of the Holy Father and St. Padre Pio
Angela’s treatment ended five years ago, and now she has regular exams to ensure everything is going well. Her daughter is 5 years old, with a head of curly hair and a great love for dancing. The fight for her life has made the mother-daughter bond even stronger. Why did they name her Francesca Pia?
“One night I was doing poorly, and I found myself in front of a statue of the saint of Pietrelcina. I promised him that I would name my baby daughter this way. Now, I have a wish: I want to tell the story to Pope Francis—after all, the baby has the same name as he does!”
In the battle against disease, Angela never lost her faith, but rather cultivated hope, trust, and humility. In her weakness, God’s power was manifested!