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'I Know at the End There is a Purpose'

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By Chris Sparks (Feb 12, 2018)
This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Marian Helper magazine. Receive a free copy.

Cancer. Factory closure. A home taken away. And more. Nohemi and Daniel Hinkle, parishioners at St. Mary Parish in Plano, Illinois, have had more than their fair share of tragedy and turmoil. Yet, with Job-like patience and perseverance, their faith remains unshaken. Here is their story.

In January of 2017, Nohemi suffered a miscarriage. She and Daniel had four living children at the time. When she asked for the remains of her youngest child, the medical staff was shocked. No one, they explained, had ever asked for the remains of a child that small before. But Nohemi was determined to have a funeral for her child, whom they named Faith Faustina. And their pastor, Fr. Andy Davy, MIC, celebrated the funeral.

"Father Andy was our biggest strength through it all," said Nohemi.

But that was only the beginning.

Also in January 2017, their youngest living child, 2-year-old Olivia, came down with a fever of 103.8 degrees. They took her to urgent care where they were told that Olivia was simply fighting a virus.

But her symptoms continued to worsen. Olivia complained of pain in her legs. The Hinkles took her to their family doctor, who noted that Olivia's white blood cell count was high. A bone marrow biopsy revealed nothing unusual.

By this time, Olivia was complaining of pain throughout her body below her neck. The family was referred to another doctor, who tested for arthritis. The results were negative. Meanwhile, Olivia had become anemic.

A month later, another bone marrow biopsy, a colonoscopy, and endoscopy all revealed nothing abnormal. To this day, Olivia's blood cell levels have not improved.

By the end of March, Nohemi and Daniel were both frustrated and frightened. They'd lost one child, and now here was their toddler on pain medication with no diagnosis in sight.

Then everything got more complicated.

The Diagnosis
In April, Nohemi found out she was pregnant again.

The following month, she noticed a lump on her right breast — a mass of tissue. Tests revealed she has Stage 4 breast cancer.

Nohemi's gynecologist got to make the phone call to let her know what they'd found. The Hinkles remember the exact day and time they got the call: May 20 at 12:37 p.m.

"As soon as we saw the phone number, we knew it was bad news," said Nohemi.

Bad news though a cancer diagnosis always is, in Nohemi's case, it brought back memories of the long Calvary her family had already endured as a result of her mother's illness and incapacitation.

Like Mother, Like Daughter?
When Nohemi was 10 and her brother was 3, their mother, Olivia, was diagnosed with a tumor right by her brain, too close for other forms of treatment. Surgery was imperative.

The night after the surgery, Nohemi's mother felt nauseous and couldn't call anyone for help. She tried to get up and go to the bathroom, but she burst a blood vessel in the process.

"She came out [of the emergency room] with machines for everything," recalled Nohemi. "She had the tubes to breathe, to eat. It took about six months for us to even be able to see her after her initial surgery. My grandmother was worried we'd see her and be afraid of how she looked because she was really swollen. By the time we saw her, she was still swollen, and we were afraid of her, so we did run out of the room."

Nohemi's mother was never able to talk again, and she remained paralyzed on her right side. She also never came home. She was in hospitals for 21 years until her tumor began to return, and she ultimately died in 2012.

"That is what I questioned the most: Why did you make her sick, and now you take me away from my children?" said Nohemi. "Thank God, He gave us the strength."

A Parish Community
On the Saturday in May that she received her diagnosis, Nohemi was scheduled to volunteer at the St. Mary Parish School pig roast fundraiser. Daniel wondered if maybe she shouldn't go, but Nohemi wanted to get out of the house.

So she was working in the kitchen at the school when Fr. Andy showed up.

"I felt pulled out to the parking lot," remembers Nohemi. Father Andy was there saying goodbye to another parishioner. When he saw her, he knew something was wrong. She told him what she'd just learned.

"Why didn't you call me?" he asked.

"I wanted to leave it at home," she said.

Of Fr. Andy, Nohemi said, "He's just amazing. I don't know what I would have done without him there."

And the parish rallied behind the Hinkles, as well. "Through it all, we've had so much support from the church family and school," said Nohemi. "They did a fund-raiser for our family in October. We are beyond blessed to have each and every one of them in our lives."

Surgery and a Woman's Choice
As part of her cancer treatment, a pregnant Nohemi met with a surgeon and set up a double mastectomy. During that initial meeting, he asked if she wanted to "terminate her pregnancy" in order to allow her the greatest possible range of treatments for her cancer.

That was not the right question to ask.

"I told him no. I asked him, 'How dare you even ask someone that? What if it was my first child, and you still asked?' He hadn't even asked if I had other children. He apologized."

That decision affected her treatment options, causing her doctors to go with a lower-dose course of chemo starting in July than she might otherwise have had. At the same time, she started regularly seeing a doctor specializing in high-risk pregnancies, who would accompany her to every meeting with her oncologist and surgeon, acting as an advocate for the unborn child.

Before her surgery, Nohemi went to the shrine to St. Gianna Molla on the grounds of St. Patrick's Parish in nearby Yorkville. There, Fr. Andy and his fellow Marian, Fr. Matthew Lamoureux, the pastor of St. Patrick's, blessed Nohemi with relics of St. Gianna, the 20th-century Italian pediatrician, wife, and mother. Saint Gianna, like Nohemi, suffered a tumor while pregnant. Saint Gianna refused both an abortion and hysterectomy, despite the risk to her own life. The saint died after giving birth to her sixth child.

Father Matthew had overseen the construction of the shrine several years ago as a place of solace and healing for anyone who suffers from the loss of a child and to celebrate life, specifically by emphasizing a model for contemporary families.

Over the course of her pregnancy, Nohemi and her family were able to attend a few of the special Masses offered monthly at St. Patrick's in honor of St. Gianna.

They would need the graces, for there was more to come.

On July 18, Daniel learned that the factory where he works as a process mechanic would be closing in March 2018.

On July 19, the Hinkles were told that their home, the place they had moved to after losing an earlier home in the market crash, would be torn down. They had to move again.

And on July 31, their 9-year-old daughter, Melody, fell off their hammock and broke her hand. Nohemi started experiencing contractions, so they were in the ER for more than one reason.

Keep in mind: Nohemi had started chemo in July. As the family went about relocating, "house-jumping" in between losing their home and finally settling into a new home on Sept. 8; as Daniel and Nohemi still grieved the loss of Faith Faustina and awaited the coming of their unborn child; as Olivia continued to suffer with no diagnosis in sight; as all of this was going on, Nohemi was also dealing with the effects of chemotherapy.

It's appropriate, then, that Daniel has a devotion to St. Joseph. The Guardian of the Redeemer also had to help his family travel when his wife was pregnant. Saint Joseph also had to be the provider for and the pillar of a family in the face of uncertainty and peril, in the face of a threat to the life of their child, and find new work in a strange land.

He also had to believe, in the face of so many reasons to doubt or despair.

Our Lady of Fatima
Just before Nohemi was due, Our Lady of Fatima came to stay.

As happens in many parishes, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima (originally donated by Fr. Matt's parents) circulates among the families of St. Mary Parish. Nohemi had been intending to sign up to have the statue for some time, but somehow had never gotten around to it. As she was leaving church one Monday, the lady in charge of the ministry rolled down the window of her car and told Nohemi to take the statue. "She wants to be with you even if you're not there."

"That night we kissed her and prayed," said Nohemi. "We felt peace knowing that she was here."

At the end of the week, on Nov. 21, 2017, Nohemi's labor was induced and the baby arrived. Daniel and Nohemi named her Gianna.

Mother and child went home on Thanksgiving Day.

Two weeks later, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima left the Hinkle home — but it seems she left a blessing behind. Their baby was born perfectly healthy.

The Pilgrimage Continues
Nohemi is undergoing treatment now for her cancer, receiving chemo and radiation. She has shared her story on Facebook, largely, she said, to make sure people realize they can get cancer at any age, and that everyone should be getting regular checkups. "Find out sooner rather than later!"

In the meantime, the Hinkles live with uncertainty, enduring their many trials and giving thanks for their many blessings — among others, their family, their parish, and their faith.

"I'm OK with what's going on because I know at the end there is a purpose," Nohemi says. "I don't question anymore."

This is what ordinary faith looks like in extraordinary circumstances. Please keep the Hinkles in your prayers!

**Update on April 13, 2018** Nohemi has shared with us that doctors have declared her cancer free! In praise and thanksgiving to God, we thank you also for your prayers.

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Mary - Feb 19, 2018

Praying for your beautiful family...

Sarah Marie Talarico-Duffy - Feb 13, 2018

I love you all dearly, Nohemi & Daniel! I pray very hard for you all, every single day. May God bless you & may He continue to bless you, always & forever❤

Brave a Family!! - Feb 12, 2018

Very Brave &Courageous Family!! I Hope & Pray God will Heal you & you won’t have to Suffer that a Hard any more & in Future you will find Happyness!! Especially Mum Niobe Get Well Soon!!

Denise - Feb 12, 2018

I will be praying for your family - and I was wondering if your Olivia has been checked for Lyme Disease? Find a doctor who knows about it as even the tests can be wrong.

Lisa - Feb 12, 2018

We love the Hinkle family! Through it all Nohemi has shown courage, strength, and grace. She is a beautiful example of faith.