Sacrifice: teen forgoes cancer treatment to save her unborn child


Jenni Lake gave birth to a baby boy the month before her 18th birthday, though she was not destined to become just another teenage mother.

That much, she knew.

While being admitted to the hospital, she pulled her nurse down to her at bed level and whispered into her ear. The nurse would later repeat the girl’s words to comfort her family, as their worst fears were realized a day after Jenni’s 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.

In photographs, the baby’s ruddy cheeks and healthy weight offer a stark contrast to the frail girl who gave birth to him. She holds the newborn tightly, kissing the top of his head. Jenni, at 5 feet and 4 inches tall, weighed only 108 pounds at the full term of her pregnancy.

A day after the Nov. 9 birth, 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 marked too much territory. Nothing could be done, Phillips said.

It was only 12 days past the birth — half spent in the hospital and the other half at home — before Jenni was gone.

Even so, her family and friends insist her legacy is not one centered in tragedy, but rather in sacrifice.

This month, her family gathered at their ranch style home in Pocatello, where a Christmas tree in the living room was adorned with ornaments picked out just for Jenni, including one in bright lime green, her favorite color. She had passed away in a bedroom down the hall.

Recalling Jenni’s infectious laugh and a rebellious streak, her mother held the baby close, nuzzling his head, and said, “I want him to know everything about her, and what she did.”

Read it all.


  1. I need to speak w this mother. I lost a son to cancer He was 21 and died at home as well. I have found peace and would love to share.

  2. pagansister says:

    A mother’s love knows no bounds—she knew that treatment would either end the pregnancy or deform her child. She also knew that she was not going to live, in spite of the possible treatments. She chose to give her son as normal a period of gestation and birth as possible. It seems she succeeded.

  3. Deacon Bob Fargo says:

    Nineteen years ago my yougest sister was diagnosed with AML. She was pregnant and gave birth without ever getting to hold her daughter. She had a picture of Ashley in front of her and studied every feature of her daughter up to the moment that she died two days later. Ashley is now a sophmore in college and looks just like her mother. These incredible acts of love remind me that God, who loves each of us into existence, had these mothers to help remind us what love means.

  4. What heroism. It breaks my heart. God bless her. The only thing I don’t understand is why didn’t she have a ceasarian when the fetus was seven months or so. Children are born earlier than that and they have no repurcussions. Perhaps it wouldn’t have made a difference either. A couple of months might not have saved her life. May the child grow up to be blessed forever.

Leave a Comment