A young Italian woman made the ultimate sacrifice when she postponed her cancer treatment to protect the life of her unborn child, which led to her death earlier this month.
At age 28, Chiara Corbella was happily married to Enrico Petrillo, but the couple had suffered the loss of two children, whom they named David and Maria, to birth defects.
In 2010, Miss Corbella became pregnant for the third time, and doctors said this time around, the baby was developing normally, the Catholic News Agency reported.
Tragedy struck when the 28-year-old mother-to-be was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and was advised to begin treatment that would have put the health of the fetus in jeopardy.
Corbella and Petrillo, both Roman Catholics who became pro-life activists after losing their two children, made the heartbreaking decision to delay the treatment for the sake of their unborn son, Francisco.
The baby came into the world on May 30, 2011, but soon after, Corbella’s health started to deteriorate and she ended up losing sight in one eye.
After a year-long uphill battle with the deadly disease, the young mother died on June 13.
In her last days, Corbella wrote a letter to her son, who is currently about 13 months old, telling him that she is going to heaven to take care of his brother and sister.
‘You stay here with dad. I will pray for you,’ she wrote.
When his son is old enough, Petrillo said he will tell him about his mother’s act of sacrifice. He also pledged to teach Francisco the importance of letting himself ‘be loved in order to love and die happy.’
‘I will tell him that this is what his mother, Chiara, did. She allowed herself to be loved, and in a certain sense, I think she loved everyone in this way,’ Petrillo said. ‘I feel her more alive than ever. To be able to see her die happy was to me a challenge to death.’
Speaking to Vatican Radio, the young widower said that they learned from their three children that there is no difference in a life that lasts 30 minutes or 100 years.
‘It was wonderful to discover this love that grew more and more in the face of so many problems,’ he said.
Corbella’s funeral Mass that was held on June 16 in Rome attracted hundreds of people who praised the young woman for her courage in the face of death.
Vicar General of Rome Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who celebrated the Mass, likened Corbella to Gianna Beretta, the 20th century saint who sacrificed her life in similar circumstances to save her unborn child.