Mother With Cancer Sacrifices Her Life for Her Unborn Baby

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 28, 2011   |   5:59PM   |   Washington, DC

Every so often somewhere in the world, news reports surface of mothers who practice the kind of selfless sacrifice that should be encouragement for anyone — a willingness to sacrifice their own life for their unborn child.

In this latest case, Jenni Lake recently gave birth to a baby boy just one month before she turned 18. When lake found out she was pregnant, she decided to forgo treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby to term and give birth.

Diana Phillips, Jenni’s mother, said that, when Lake was admitted to the hospital as she told the nurse, ‘I’m done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe.'” The nurse would later repeat the girl’s words to comfort her family when Lake passed away 12 days after the baby was born.

Now, photographs show a healthy baby with rosy cheeks who was born at a healthy weight — a contrast to the frail Lake.

The Associated Press presents more of Lake’s courageous story:

The migraines started last year, when Jenni was a 16-year-old sophomore at Pocatello High School. She was taken to the family doctor, and an MRI scan found a small mass measuring about two centimeters wide on the right side of her brain.

She was sent to a hospital in Salt Lake City, some 150 miles south of Pocatello, and another scan there showed the mass was bigger than previously thought.

Jenni had a biopsy Oct. 15, 2010, and five days later was diagnosed with 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.

Jenni started aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while also posting videos on a YouTube site titled “Jenni’s Journey,” where she hoped to share her story with updates every other day. She managed to upload only three videos, though, as her treatments left her tired and weak.

From the start of treatment, she was told that she might never have children, her mother said, that the radiation and chemotherapy could essentially make her sterile.

But when Jenni and her boyfriend Nathan learned she was pregnant, Jenni had her mind made up.

Jenni, the third of her parents’ eight children, had always wanted to be a mom. She had already determined to keep the baby when she went to see her oncologist, Dr. David Ririe, in Pocatello two days after she found out she was pregnant.

“He told us that if she’s pregnant, she can’t continue the treatments,” Phillips said. “So she would either have to terminate the pregnancy and continue the treatments, or stop the treatments, knowing that it could continue to grow again.”

There was no discussion about which path Jenni would choose. Her parents didn’t think of it as a clear life or death decision, and Jenni may not have, either. They believed that since the tumors had already started to shrink earlier, she had a strong chance of carrying the baby and then returning to treatment after he was born.

Jenni’s last words were about her son as he was placed beside her a final time, her father said. As she felt for the baby, she said: “I can kind of see him.”