Teen Stops Cancer Treatment to Save Baby
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Jenni Lake, 18, gave birth to a boy one month before she turned 18 but she knew that she would not be destined to be just any old teenage mother. In the process of admission to the hospital, she whispered to her nurse something she wanted to tell her family, as their worst fears were realized the day after the baby was born.

“She told the nurse, ‘I’m done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,'” said Diana Phillips, Jenni’s mother.


Jenni gave birth on November 9, 2011. One day alter, Phillips learned that her daughter decided to forgo treatment for brain and spine tumors in order to carry the baby without fatal consequences. Nothing could be done now that the baby was born. Twelve days after the birth of the baby, Jenni passed away.

Jenni was 16 when she began having migraines as a sophomore at Pocatello High School. The family doctor performed an MRI that found a small mass that measured two centimeters wide on the right side of the brain. 240 kilometers south of Pocatello, in Salt Lake City, she was admitted to a hospital. Another scan there showed that the mass was larger than originally thought.

On October 15, 2010, Jenni underwent a biopsy and then five days later was diagnosed with stage three astrocytoma, a brain tumor. Jenni had three tumors on her brain and three tumors on her spine. She was told her cancer was rare because it spread from the brain to another part of the body with zero symptoms.

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“Jenni just flat out asked them if she was going to die,” said her father, Mike Lake, 43, a truck driver who lives in Rexburg, north of Pocatello.

The doctors told Jenni and her family that she had a 30 percent chance to survive with treatment, making it two years.

“She didn’t break down and cry or anything,” he said.

Jenni’s mother did recall Jenni having a weak moment later that day.

“When they told her that she might not be able to have kids, she got upset,” said Phillips, 39.

A couple of weeks prior to being diagnosed, Jenni began dating Nathan Wittman.

“The rumors started flying around, like Nathan was only with her because she had cancer,” said Jenni’s older sister, Ashlee Lake, 20.

Not too long after her diagnosis, Jenni began throwing up and having sharp stomach pains. She went to the emergency room with her boyfriend. When she returned home she began crying, waking up her family. While at the hospital, she learned that she was pregnant and that her journey would not be along anymore.

“We were told that she couldn’t get pregnant, so we didn’t worry about it,” said Nathan, 19.

“He (Jenni’s doctor) 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.”

The baby was named Chad Michael by Jenni and Nathan, after each of their fathers. Legal custody of the child is with Nathan, but the child receives primary care from Nathan’s mother Alexia Wittman.


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