Cancer-Stricken Teen Mother Dies to Give Her Baby Life
By Ben Johnson
Dec. 31, 2011
POCATELLO, IDAHO December 31, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - An Idaho teenager diagnosed with cancer died last month after refusing to abort her unborn child or expose him to radiation.
Jenni Lake, 17, of Pocatello, Idaho, was diagnosed with cancer in October 2010 after she began having severe migraines. Doctors in Salt Lake City discovered the cause after an MRI: a stage three astrocytoma, a tumor on the side of her brain. They gave her a 30 percent chance of surviving another two years.
Her mother, Diana Phillips, said Jenni, who is the third of eight children, seemed more upset by the possibility that radiation would leave her sterile. "When they told her that she might not be able to have kids, she got upset," Phillips said.
By March, her tumors began to shrink. But in May, Jenni learned she was pregnant.
Phillips said the family's oncologist told them "she would either have to terminate the pregnancy and continue the treatments, or stop the treatments, knowing that it could continue to grow again."
Phillips said her daughter never considered having an abortion. She worried the 10-week-old child had undergone two rounds of chemotherapy.
On November 9, just one month before her 18th birthday, Jenni gave birth to a healthy boy, named Chad Michael after his grandfathers. After the delivery, she told the nurse, "I'm done. I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe." Family hoped she could resume the chemotherapy.
However, doctors discovered the tumors had gotten larger and spread to her spinal column. Nothing could be done. Less than two weeks later, she succumbed to cancer.
Jenni's last wish was that her baby lay beside her. Although she had lost her sight to the tumors, her last words were, "I can kind of see him."
Phillips now sports a tattoo of the words "Jenni" and "John 15:13." That verse from the fourth Gospel states, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
"It is very inspiring to see such a young woman cling to the moral choice of sparing her child's life over her own," wrote Thomas McKenna, president and founder of St. Gianna Physician's Guild, in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. "It is proof positive that God has written on a mother's heart an unlimited capacity to love her unborn child."
The guild's patron saint, Gianna Beretta Molla, died in 1962 after refusing to have an abortion to save her own life, telling physicians, "If you must choose between me and the baby, have no hesitation at all. I demand that you choose the baby. Save her." Pope John Paul II canonized St. Gianna in 2004.
The daughter she saved, Gianna Emanuela, is a doctor specializing in geriatric medicine. An older daughter, Laura Molla, has attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Jenni's FaceBook page, Jenni's Journey, has received comments from New Zealand, Germany, and Italy. Her mother finds Jenni's newfound notoriety ironic. "She's all over the world, and when we did the first benefit she didn't even want her picture up on the billboard."
The child's father, 19-year-old Nathan Wittman, will raise the baby with help from his mother and Phillips.
In recent years, many young women have made the life-giving decision to preserve their child's life at all costs.
McKenna wrote, "The Church has given this generation St. Gianna as a great role model for those faced with such difficult situations."