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One Woman’s Pregnancy Accompanied by a Death Sentence

“I don’t know that you can really put into words what that diagnosis feels like until you’ve been there.”

When Amy Hanley heard she had cancer, she knew her life wasn’t the only one at stake.

“I was six weeks pregnant, I was 38 years old, and had stage three colorectal cancer. And I did the only thing I knew to do. I got on my knees and I prayed.”

A week later, Amy went into surgery where doctors removed eight centimeters of her colon. A few days later, Amy’s doctor came in with devastating news. The cancer had spread. They could treat it with chemo, but it would come at a cost.

“I knew I was dying. But she told me that I had a 45% chance of survival if I had an abortion. Without an abortion, I had no chance.”

Other doctors agreed, but abortion was not an option for Amy and Bobby.

“What gives us the right to kill an unborn baby?” asks Bobby. “A baby that has every potential of living and becoming, you know, an adult, just like myself. Who gives us the right to make a decision?”

“So many people will say to you ‘Oh, I’m pro-life, except…’ says Amy. “Well, I don’t believe that ‘in exception.’ I was that exception. I was the mother that was told it’s your life or the baby’s life.”

The couple sought out a second opinion.  That’s when they met Dr. Nikolinakos, an oncologist who prescribed a chemo regimen for Amy.

“I wasn’t sure if it was going to be entirely safe,” remembers Dr. Nik, as Amy calls him, “but I had confidence based on other examples with breast cancer and other types cancer that I have treated.”

“It’s a different cancer than what some of the other studies he was looking at,” says Amy. “It was different. But he said, ‘I think it might work. And I won’t make you any promises, but I will treat you if that’s what you want.’”

Amy was 14 weeks pregnant when she started the treatments, but Bobby and she knew the outcome depended on God.

“We were constantly praying,” says Bobby. “Prayer was a part of every day. I had people come up to me that I didn’t even know on the street that had heard about our situation and say, ‘Hey man, can I pray with you?’”

Maricia Parker, Amy’s nurse during treatments at Athens Regional Medical Center, was touched by the couple’s faith.
“And I can just remember her husband saying, ‘We already love this baby,’ says Maricia. “And that just hit me really hard. And they’re going to go through this really hard thing.”

What made it more difficult, was there was no way to determine what effect the chemo might be having on the baby.

“There were no guarantees what could be happening to the baby,” says Amy. “But we had a peace about it.”

Even Amy’s OB/GYN, Dr. Sepesi, knew the baby was in God’s hands.
“You have to step back and say, ‘I really wasn’t doing anything. All I was doing was reassuring her that things looked good, that I’m willing to be a part of this with you. I’m willing to do your C-section whenever it’s time to do it.”

After Amy endured eleven rounds of chemo, it was time for her scheduled C-section.

“We had several pastors and friends that were there, and my husband,” says Amy. “And they just made a circle around my bed and we just held hands and prayed over the baby, over the delivery.”

“And as much as I wish I would do that with all of my patients, it certainly was very profound that morning that that’s something we needed to do,” says Dr. Sepesi. “And it made sense with everything that was leading up to that point that we needed to continue to remind ourselves to give God the glory in all of that.”

Joshua Hanley was born on August 28th, 2010, in perfect health.

“I just cried,” recalls Amy. “Overjoyed, thankful, just so thankful.”

Bobby also remembers it well. “Not only was my little boy healthy, my wife was alive, and that was 180 degrees from what we’d been told initially. I was ecstatic. It was wonderful.”
“He was beautiful,” says Maricia. She looked amazing. And she still had more treatments to go, but everything was just—it was just amazing and I just saw God’s grace through that whole thing. I don’t always get to see that.”

Now five years old, Joshua is a typical active boy.

“So to me the miraculous things are the way you’ve got this cute little kid, who’s running around seeming to act like everybody else,” says Dr. Sepesi.
“To know that that child’s going to grow up to be a man one day and have a full life and a family that really loves him is to me extremely gratifying,” says Dr. Nik. “I don’t see that a lot. For me that was extraordinary. And there certainly have been great success stories, but nothing this great.”

As for Amy, the chemo was a success, and there’s been no sign of cancer since.

“We know that the Lord is bigger than any situation we could ever be in,” says Bobby. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on. If you’re in the Lord’s will, you’re in the safest place you could be. Regardless of the outcome of anything, if you’re in God’s will, that’s where you want to be. The Lord’s in control of all that, we know that.”

“God is always in control,” says Amy. “And the thing I have learned is I don’t have to understand what He’s doing. I just know God sees the beginning and He sees the end. He’s got it all worked out. He can be trusted to take care of the circumstances, even when they don’t make sense to us. Trust Him.”

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