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Teen Sacrifices Herself to Birth Son, Family Learns of Farewell Message She Shared with a Nurse

Ayesha Muhammad
Mar 04, 2022
11:00 A.M.
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When a teen mother had to choose between medical treatment or continuing her pregnancy, she opted for the latter. She left behind a legacy centered not on tragedy but pure sacrifice for her loved ones. 

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There's certainly no way to measure a parent's love for their children. Expectant mothers forge a special connection with their unborn babies, which gets more profound with time.

That's one reason why a mother will never hesitate to put her life on the line if it means saving her child's life. A teen mom did something similar for her baby, showing the world that a mother's love for her child is unconditional. 

Jenni feeds her son with a bottle [Left]; Jenni and her son sleep peacefully [Right]. | Source: facebook.com/cestrienquepournous

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THE FAREWELL MESSAGE

A month before she turned 18, Jenni Lake gave birth to a baby boy. Ironically, she knew she wasn't meant to embrace motherhood again. Jenni was a strong young woman who deeply cared for her loved ones. 

During her time in the hospital, she whispered a powerful message to one of the nurses in the room. The nurse delivered the same message to Jenni's family, hoping the words would offer some solace. 

She told the nurse, "I'm done. I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,'" repeated Diana Phillips, Jenni's mother. Fortunately, Jenni's family captured photographs where she held her newborn son, planting kisses on his head.

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WELCOMING HER SON

The photos offered a clear contrast between the healthy-looking baby and his fragile mother. Five feet, four inches tall, Jenni weighed only 108 pounds at her pregnancy's full term. She delivered her son on November 9, 2011. 

Jenni and Nathan named their son, Chad Michael, after their fathers.

A day later, Phillips learned that Jenni had chosen to forego chemotherapy for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry her son without any severe consequences. The cancer had spread rapidly, and nothing could be done to stop it. 

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A LEGACY OF SACRIFICE

Twelve days after giving birth to her son, Jenni died on November 21, 2011. She spent half her time in the hospital and the remaining half at home, surrounded by her dear ones. 

In December 2011, Jenni's family gathered at their ranch-style Pocatello home in Idaho, celebrating Christmas and remembering Jenni. It was the same house in a bedroom down the hall where Jenni passed away with her family beside her.

A Christmas tree was placed in the living area, decorated with ornaments picked out for Jenni, including one in her favorite color, bright lime green. According to her family, Jenni left behind a legacy of sacrifice rather than tragedy.

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A BRAVE FIGHTER

"I want him to know everything about her, and what she did," uttered Phillips to her grandson as she recalled her deceased daughter's contagious laugh and rebellious nature. Jenni fought with cancer for a year before passing on to her final abode. 

She first felt migraines in 2010, when she was a 16-year-old sophomore at Pocatello High School. Her family took her to the doctor, and an MRI scan revealed a two-centimeter wide small mass on her brain's right side. 

Jenni then went to a hospital in Salt Lake City, and another MRI scan showed the mass was much more prominent. On October 15, 2010, she had a biopsy, and five days later, she received her complete diagnosis.

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Jenni learned she had stage three astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor. She had three tumors on her brain and three on her spine, and the cancer had spread to another part of her body where it showed no symptoms. 

The doctors explained her condition to her divorced parents and discussed her survival chances. Jenni's father, Mike Lake, a truck driver who lived in Rexburg, recalled Jenni asking the doctors if she would die. 

Then, the Lake family learned that even with treatment, Jenni had a 30% chance to live for two years. While her parents were devastated, Jenni neither cried nor lost her fighting spirit. But, there was one thing that deeply upset her.

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JENNI'S JOURNEY

"When they told her that she might not be able to have kids, she got upset," explained Phillips. Jenni underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments and documented her journey on her YouTube channel, "Jenni's Journey."

While Jenni hoped to share regular updates, she only uploaded three videos because her treatment left her frail and exhausted. One of the videos showed her looking distraught while her mother broke down in tears beside her. 

In March 2011, Jenni's tumors started shrinking, and she even attended her school prom in May. Jenni donned a stunning blue dress with a silver headband in her short hair. She lost her long golden locks to chemotherapy. 

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EXPECTING THE UNEXPECTED

Still, Jenni flashed a bright smile as her boyfriend, Nathan Wittman, held her from behind. Nathan was dressed in a black dress shirt and matching pants. The couple had met a few weeks before Jenni's diagnosis. 

Jenni's elder sister, Ashlee Lake, revealed that several people thought Nathan was with Jenni because of her cancer. But despite the criticism, their relationship stood the test of time.

Jenni and Nathan had big plans for their future and dreamed of running a restaurant or gallery. Later in May, Jenni started experiencing stomach pains and vomited frequently. 

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When she went to the emergency with Nathan, she learned she was ten weeks pregnant. It was shocking news for her family, who was told she couldn't get pregnant because of her chemotherapy. 

On the other hand, Jenni, who had seven siblings, had always yearned to be a mother. Two days after learning about her pregnancy, she went to see her oncologist, Dr. David Ririe, in Pocatello and shared she wanted to keep the baby.

Dr. Ririe told the Lake family that Jenni couldn't continue the treatment during her pregnancy. According to a study, children born after their mothers received chemotherapy during pregnancy appeared healthy, but many were born prematurely. 

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A WHISPER OF LOVE

The same study revealed that babies born preterm could experience issues with cognitive development. Jenni and her family were clear about which option she would choose. Her parents hoped that she could return to her treatment after delivering her baby.

Jenni and Nathan named their son, Chad Michael, after their fathers. After Jenni's death, Nathan got legal custody of the child, and he was placed in the care of Nathan's mother, Alexia Wittman. Alexia brought Chad to Jenni's family whenever they wished.

The Lake family shared they were proud of Jenni, who never wavered in her decision to have Chad, even when the cancer took its toll. In her final moments, she asked her family to place Chad next to her and said she could see him, despite losing her vision to cancer.

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Like Jenni, another expecting mother diagnosed with bone cancer didn't think twice before sacrificing her leg to save her unborn baby. You can read the full story here.

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