Elizabeth Joice survived cancer in 2010, thanks to aggressive chemotherapy treatments. The downside, she was told by doctors, was that those treatments would leave her infertile. So she and her husband, Max, were shocked when she became pregnant in 2013.
“It very much felt like a miracle,” he tells CNN. “Bringing a child into this world — I mean, it wasn’t just important for me; it was one of the most important things for Liz.”
But their joy was short-lived. Just a month after discovering she was pregnant, doctors found a tumor in Elizabeth’s lung. The cancer, non-differentiated sarcoma, could be partially removed by operation. She was then given the option for a full body MRI to see if the cancer was spreading. The decision was not an easy one to make. The dyes used during an MRI can damage a developing fetus. So, Elizabeth could either terminate her pregnancy to undergo the scan or continue with the pregnancy without knowing her true cancer status.
Elizabeth chose not to get the scan. As Max tells CNN, it was a calculated risk. “We knew there was a possibility of a worst-case scenario, but we also thought there was a good chance that we could have the baby …We felt that if we terminated this pregnancy and did these scans, if it turned out that there was no evidence of this disease after the scans, then we would have possibly given up our only chance at having a child naturally and would have done it for nothing.”
A shielded chest X-ray taken in November found no sign of cancer, but by January Elizabeth told doctors she couldn’t breathe very well. A second X-ray showed tumors in her lungs so her C-section date was moved up, and her daughter, Lily Joice, was born six weeks early on January 23. Doctors say Elizabeth was just radiant.
“She was holding the baby. Just the joy on her face was just incredible,” Yahoo reports doctors saying. “She said This is worth it. … I would do it all again to have this child.’”
But as life was just beginning for Lily, it was too late for Elizabeth. The cancer was everywhere. Both lungs, her heart, her abdomen. She spent six precious weeks with her daughter and lost her battle on March 9.
Sadly, it was too late for Elizabeth. The cancer had spread almost immediately into her second lung, her heart, and her abdomen. Though she fought the cancer for six weeks after her daughter was born, Elizabeth ultimately lost the battle on March 9. She was just 36.
Remarkably, before her cancer diagnosis, Elizabeth had agreed to be in a documentary about pregnancy. The filmmaker, Christopher Henze, calls Elizabeth a stellar human being and even delivered the eulogy at her funeral.
“Lots of people say ‘Liz was’; I say ‘Liz is,’” Henze tells CNN. “Through her spirit and grace, she is still affecting people, and she will through the movie, will continue to impact people. Liz is.”
His upcoming documentary on pregnancy and motherhood called 40 Weeks will include the Joices’ story. A website has also been set up to help Max and Lily. If you’d like to help click here. So far $47,565 of a $50,000 goal has been raised. Let’s get ‘em higher than $50,000, you guys.
I’ve been sitting here wondering what my choice would be if I had to make the same decision as Elizabeth. If I had other children, the decision would be to terminate the pregnancy. But if my situation were exactly the same as Elizabeth’s … Man, I just don’t know. I think I would’ve done the same thing as she did, only because at the time she made her decision she didn’t know if the cancer had spread. As her husband said, it was a calculated risk. But if someone told me I’d die weeks after giving birth … I just can’t say what my decision would be. Can you?
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