Jennifer Anken's husband found out he had terminal brain cancer only weeks after they received the good news.
There are all sorts of miracles in the world and sometimes we have to pass through the most difficult storms to get to the miracle. It can be a bleak time but being able to see the silver lining can make us stronger and happier.
Jennifer Anken, 39, has been counting her blessings since she heard she was pregnant after trying for 15 years. She found out she was pregnant on September 11, 2019, just a few days before her then-fiance Dave Anken's 47th birthday. The Florida woman welcomed her baby girl Davya Rose, on April 24, 2020, during the pandemic and all alone at a hospital. During the months between her getting pregnant and Davya's birth, Jennifer has been through hell and back.
The couple had believed that they were finally getting everything they wanted: a family. But it all came to naught when Dave got diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.
"There's always the question, 'Why would God do this to somebody?' But then again, I see this miracle I have in my hands," Jennifer, 39, tells PEOPLE. "I think my husband's story was written a long time ago and it was just a matter of getting all the pages in line with me, for us to have this little person."
Jennifer, who was previously married, had a little "success" with her first husband as she had gotten pregnant. However, she miscarried then. After her divorce, she started dating Dave in 2017. They were both ready to have kids and tried for many years before getting an expert opinion on it.
"We did some testing... and found out I was fine. Everything was working well with me but he, unfortunately, was not producing anything that was helping us out," she explains.
While they waited to have a baby together, they knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their life with each other. So, the couple got engaged in April 2019 and kept trying for their little miracle. Their prayers were answered in September when doctors told them that they were going to have a baby.
"It was quite amazing," she said. "We see the sonogram, but it was still surreal and exciting... Until the day he died, I really don't think he really thought I was pregnant. He was like, 'I won't believe it 'till I see her.'" Unfortunately, he never got to see her because of the tumor.
Only a few weeks after they had this joyous news, she started getting worried about her fiance. His behavior had changed completely and they couldn't figure out why. Even his co-workers noticed something was off about him.
"He was late to work, which was not something he did. He dozed off, he was very irritable, he'd get lost, it was a mess," she recalls. "In our house, it was pure hell, if you ask me. We were fighting all the time... it was almost like, looking back on it now, dealing with a 15-year-old personality-wise.
They wanted to find out why he had changed and on October 25, they headed to the local hospital. The doctors did an MRI on Dave and found that there was a mass on the front part of his brain. He was referred to AdventHealth Orlando for additional tests, where the worst nightmare came true. Dave, the firefighter, had terminal brain cancer. He was admitted to the hospital right then and the surgery followed the next day.
"I don’t think it actually hit me for a couple of days," says Jennifer. "When we had our time alone, I would ask him, 'Do you know what's going on?' and he would say, 'Yeah, I have a tumor,'" she recalls. "He knew what was going on. I think he knew his body and knew the outcome, but he wouldn’t tell me."
Jennifer wanted to make the required medical decisions for him but being only his fiance she was unable to do so. A rehab center, where Dave had been transferred, arranged for them to get married in the conference room on November 5. At this point, a pregnant Jennifer was going through her lowest as she was worried about the love of her life.
"For them to go above and beyond and have a spot for us to do a wedding was very, very nice," she says. "They got him out of the bed and got him sitting up and that was more than anybody could ever do for us that day."
Dave didn't live long after that and died on November 10. She was the last person he saw. Five months after he passed away, she found herself in a hospital bed giving birth alone due to the pandemic. While that had stressed her immensely, now she feels protected with her family and daughter around.
Davya has been a great source of joy for her mother, who lost her husband five months before welcoming her child. Her daughter has become everything to her now. She sees Dave in her. "I'm sure she'll have a personality like him too," says Jennifer. "I just have a feeling."