Despite not being meant to be just another teen mother, Jenni Lake gave birth to a boy a month before becoming 18 years old.
As she was being checked into the hospital, she dragged her nurse to bed level and mumbled into her ear.
Later, when the girl’s family’s worst fears were realized a day after Jenni’s baby was born, the nurse would comfort them by repeating the girl’s thoughts.
“I’m done; I fulfilled my obligation,” she told the nurse. “My baby will arrive safely.”
The baby’s bright cheeks and healthy weight contrast with the ill girl who gave birth to him in the photographs.
She kisses the baby’s head while hugging him tightly. Jenni, who measures five feet four inches tall, weighed only 108 pounds at the height of her pregnancy.
Mrs. Phillips learned the day after the baby was delivered on November 9 that her daughter’s decision to postpone treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby would have serious ramifications. The cancer had taken over far too much territory. Mrs. Phillips claimed that nothing could be done.
Only 12 days had passed since Jenni’s birth, of which she spent half in the hospital and the other half at home when she passed away.
On the other hand, her family and friends are determined that her legacy will be one of sacrifice rather than tragedy.
A Christmas tree was decorated in the living room of her ranch-style home in Pocatello, where her family gathered this month, with ornaments specially chosen for Jenni, including one in her favorite color, lime green.
She had died in a bedroom down the hall.
Jenni’s mother hugged her son, kissed his head, and said, “I want him to know everything about her and all she did.” Jenni’s contagious laugh and rebellious spirit came to mind.
Jenni began having migraines as a sophomore at Pocatello High School last year when she was 16 years old.
An MRI scan detected a two-centimeter-wide mass on the right side of her brain after she was taken to the family doctor.
A second scan at a hospital in Salt Lake City, some 150 miles south of Pocatello, revealed that the mass was much larger than previously thought.
Jenni was diagnosed with stage three astrocytoma five days after undergoing a biopsy on October 15, 2010.
Jenni’s situation was uncommon since she had three tumors on her brain and three on her spine, and cancer had spread from her brain to another part of her body without causing any symptoms.
Her estranged parents describe being transported to a hospital room and seated at a long table while doctors evaluated her prognosis.
According to her father, Mike Lake, a truck driver who resides in Rexburg, north of Pocatello, and is 43 years old, Jenni just asked them if she was going to die.
The response was insufficient. Mr. Lake stated that the child was given a 30% chance of living for another two years with treatment.
Mr. Lake was heartbroken, but he was struck by how strong she seemed.
“She didn’t cry out in tears or anything,” he stated.
Jenni did, however, have a weak moment that day, according to her mother.
According to Mrs. Phillips, 39, she grew upset when they informed her that she might not be able to have children.
Jenni began filming videos on the YouTube account Jenni’s Struggle with the purpose of sharing her journey and providing updates every other day, in addition to undergoing severe chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
She was only able to upload three movies due to the weariness and weakness caused by her treatments.
Jenni appears to be distressed in her second video, which was released on November 20, 2010, while a family friend films her eating lunch with her mother.
“Last night, I was just lying in bed and I was thinking about everything that was going on and it just like, it just hit me, like everything, and I don’t know, it made me cry,” Jenni says in the video.
Her mother is depicted with her face hidden behind her hands.
“Do you realize how difficult it is to be a mom and know that she’s sick and there’s nothing you can do?” she begs before breaking down in tears.
“It’s difficult,” Jenni says. ” I’m not sure how much longer this will go on, and I just want it to be over. This, I suppose, is keeping me from accomplishing much.”
According to the family, the tumors had began to shrink by March of this year.
Jenni grins briefly for the camera while wearing a dark blue lace dress to her prom in early May.
Her hair is less than an inch long and adorned with a silver headband. During chemotherapy, her blonde, shoulder-length hair fell out.
Her lover, Nathan Wittman, is hugging her from behind while clothed in a black dress shirt and slacks.
Jenni began dating Nathan a few weeks before learning of her diagnosis.
Cancer, which put their relationship to the ultimate test, chemotherapy, which left her scarcely able to move from her living room to her bedroom, and rumors propagated at school did not end their romance.
“The stories started floating around, like Nathan was only with her because she had cancer,” Jenni’s older sister Ashlee Lake, 20, says, and the young pair chose to ignore it.
They fantasized about one day owning a gallery or a restaurant.
Jenni was an apprentice at a local tattoo studio at the time. Kass Chacon, the proprietor, said that she reminded him of his younger sister.
Jenni, on the other hand, began making fewer trips to the supermarket in May.
She was having terrible stomach discomfort and vomiting on a regular basis. She and her partner went to the emergency room early one morning; when she returned home, her family members awoke to the sound of crying.
Jenni could be heard crying in her room, according to her 19-year-old sister Kaisee.
She discovered she was pregnant when an ultrasound revealed the fetus was ten weeks old.
Jenni’s trip was no longer her own.
According to her mother, she was advised from the start of treatment that the radiation and chemo could effectively render her childless.
“We were assured that she couldn’t become pregnant, so we didn’t worry about it,” Nathan, 19, said.
Jenni, the third of her parents’ eight children, had always wanted to start a family. She had already decided to keep the kid when she saw her oncologist, Dr. David Ririe, in Pocatello two days after finding she was pregnant.
Mrs. Phillips continued, “He advised us that if she becomes pregnant, she will be unable to continue the therapy. She would have to choose between terminating the pregnancy and continuing the therapies or discontinuing the therapies while still knowing that the tumor could grow again.”
Dr. Ririe explained that when a cancer patient is pregnant, oncologists will weigh the risks and benefits of continuing with treatment, such as chemotherapy. However, due to privacy concerns, she refused to discuss Jenni’s care.
Dr. Ririe emphasized that the benefits of chemotherapy during pregnancy occasionally exceed the risks to the woman and the unborn child, mentioning breast cancer as one example. There are other instances where the hazards outweigh the benefits.
No one knew which path Jenni would follow. Both her parents and Jenni may not have seen it as a simple life-or-death decision.
They thought she had a good chance of having the child and then returning to therapy once he was born because the tumors had already begun to shrink.
“I guess we were simply expecting her to go back on the chemotherapy and get well after she delivered the child,” her mother said.
Jenni and Nathan named the child Chad Michael after their fathers. The child’s legal custody goes to Nathan, who is largely cared for by Nathan’s mother, Alexia Wittman, 51.
“Nathan will raise him,” she replied.
Jenni didn’t express regret for her decision throughout her final weeks of pregnancy as she grew weaker, or when she began to lose her vision as the condition worsened, according to her relatives.
Jenni’s father recalled her final words as her son was placed by her side for the last time. “I think I saw him,” she said as she reached for the baby.