If you discovered you had cancerous tumors in your brain and spine would you seek possibly life-saving treatment? Of course. But what if the treatment that might save your life could end the life growing inside you?
For one 17-year-old Idaho woman, there was no question but that she’d avoid any treatment that might harm her unborn child.
As The Huffington Post reports, Jenni Lake gave brith to her son on November 9th. A day birth, Jenni’s mother, Diana Phillips, learned that her daughter’s decision to forgo treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby would have fatal repercussions. The cancer had spread. It was too late.
Twelve days after her son was born, Jenni was dead.
Her mother later learned that while being checked into the hospital to give birth Jeni whispered to a nurse, “I’m done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe.”
Jenni’s declining heath is apparent in photographs of her holding a healthy baby boy after his birth. At 5’4″, Jenni only weighed 108 pounds at the end of her pregnancy.
Jenni learned she had cancer when she was a 16-year-old sophomore. A doctor found a small mass on the right side of her brain. A biopsy last year revealed Jenni had stage three astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor. With three tumors on her brain and three on her spine, Jenni was told her case was rare because the cancer had spread from her brain to another part of her body with no symptoms.
Lake was told that with treatment, she had a 30 percent chance to make it two years. Doctors also told the teen she might not be able to have kids. Jenni started aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while also posting videos on a YouTube site titled “Jenni’s Journey”.
By March of this year, the tumors had started to shrink and Jenni was able to attend prom with her boyfriend, Nathan Wittman whom she had begun to date just weeks before receiving her diagnosis.
One morning shortly after prom Jenni took herself to the emergency room because she’d been throwing up and had a stomach ache. It was there that she learned she was 10 weeks pregnant.
“We were told that she couldn’t get pregnant, so we didn’t worry about it,” said Nathan, 19. From the start of treatment, Lake was told that she might never have children, because the radiation and chemotherapy could make her sterile.
Although her doctor told Lake she would either have to terminate the pregnancy and continue treatments, or stop the treatments knowing the cancer could grow again. ”
Jenni wouldn’t even consider terminating the pregnancy.
“I guess we were just hoping that after she had the baby, she could go back on the chemotherapy and get better,” her mother said.
Her family says Jenni didn’t show regret for her decision, not even in the final weeks of pregnancy when she started to lose her vision as the cancer took over her body.
Jenni and Nathan named the baby Chad Michael, after their dads. Nathan has legal custody of the child, who is primarily cared for by Nathan’s mother, Alexia Wittman, 51. She brings the baby to Jenni’s house whenever the family asks.
The family marked this Christmas at their Pocatello home remembering Jenni who passed away in a bedroom down the hall. Her mother holds her grandson close and says, “I want him to know everything about her, and what she did.”
Jenni’s last words were about her son as he was placed beside her a final time. She felt for the baby and said: “I can kind of see him.”
All photos courtesy of Jenni’s public Facebook page.
You can also find Monica Bielanko on her personal blog, The Girl Who.