Years ago, I had a friend in California who was about four months pregnant when she learned that she had a fast-moving cancer that would kill her in a matter of weeks unless she started chemotherapy immediately. But it was a type of chemo that would kill her child.
Fiercely pro-life, considering abortion was the last thing on her mind. However, the cancer was so fast-moving that even if she decided to forego the chemo, she would not live long enough to bring the baby to the viability stage before delivering it. It was one of these life-of-the-mother situations that you hear about but rarely learn the gritty details.
Partly because she had several other children who needed her, she did abort this fourth child and had the chemo. Sadly, she only lived one more year before the cancer returned and she died.
Now to the news. I was interested to hear of a similar story that ran in the Washington Post about a woman who rejected chemo so her unborn child could live. Of course, you should watch for the faith element in this story.
The headaches began sometime in March. They didn’t think much of them, other than that they were possible migraines -- until she started vomiting.
An initial scan showed a mass in Carrie DeKlyen’s brain. More tests showed that it was a form of cancer, possibly lymphoma, but treatable. But a pathology exam revealed a more grim diagnosis. The 37-year-old mother of five from Wyoming, Mich., had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. If lucky, she could live for five more years.
The tumor was taken out during a surgery in April, her husband, Nick DeKlyen, said. Not even a month later, the couple received two pieces of shocking news. Carrie’s tumor was back -- and she was eight weeks pregnant.
Here’s the agonizing choice part, with a hint at faith:
They had two options. They could try to prolong Carrie’s life through chemotherapy, but that meant ending her pregnancy. Or they could keep the baby, but Carrie would not live long enough to see the child.
It was a difficult but obvious choice for the DeKlyens, who live strongly by their faith. After a second surgery to remove the tumor that came back, the couple went home, knowing full well that Carrie had only months left. Thirty-four more weeks. Nick said that's how long his wife needed to live.
“That’s what she wanted,” Nick said. “We love the Lord. We’re pro-life. We believe that God gave us this baby.”
The story continues on with the horrendous details of Carrie’s last few months and how the amount of fluid produced by Carrie’s brain caused her horrible pain. Then she had a massive stroke and lost consciousness. But the pregnancy was only 19 weeks along.
Finally at 24 weeks, Nick was told the child could be in danger and needed to be delivered immediately. A little girl, named Life and weighing 1 pound, 4 oz., was delivered on Sept. 6. She remains in intensive care. The story ends with this:
Nick dismissed critics who questioned the couple’s decision to put their faith first, saying keeping their child showed his wife’s selflessness.
“She gave up her life for the baby,” he said, adding later: “I just want people to know that my wife loved the Lord. She loved her kids. She put anybody in front of her needs. … She put my daughter above herself.”
The story left me with more questions than answers.
Were the parents part of a denomination that has definite, even ancient, views on abortion and whose stance might have informed the couple’s choice? Did the couple attend a church at all and if so, of what help –- or hindrance -– were its members and pastor during such a momentous decision? The quotes from the couple make it sound as though they are some type of Christian but the story never says. Why is that?
Like my friend in California, Carrie had other kids to think about. My friend felt that her existing children had just as much a right to her as did the unborn child and she decided in favor of them. Carrie decided that no life, even her own, was worth an abortion, so she sacrificed her life. She also figured she was going to die anyway, as the cancer was quite aggressive, so it was better to give the baby a chance to live (click here for updates).
But did anyone help them think through these options? Where are the faith details?
This story is so haunting and I wish there were more details about this couple’s faith. I searched about on my own and found they attended Resurrection Life Church, which is apparently a non-denominational church in the area.
Other news accounts didn’t offer much more in details, including these features on ABC-TV and People magazine. Some accounts, like this Detroit TV station , didn’t have a faith component at all. The Post’s story had a number of details -- such as the pain the mother went through in not undergoing medical treatment so that her child could live -- that others did not.
But the faith details are what piques my curiosity. I did learn that the mom was part of a clinical trial for a cancer-fighting drug at the University of Michigan/Ann Arbor but she had to drop out once she found out she was pregnant. I’m guessing this was due to regulations excluding pregnant women from such trials.
So follow the family’s journey on Facebook if you wish to know what happens to little baby Life. She wasn’t doing well as of Tuesday night. Hopefully any further news stories will tell more about the beliefs this family has that have carried them through this storm.