Ronda Kaysen: When one mother discovered, at 24 weeks pregnant, that she had a malignant brain tumor, she was faced with an unthinkable choice: treat her cancer and lose the baby, or wait until the baby could live on her own and risk her own life.
In a stunning act of devotion to her baby, she chose to delay treatment until she knew the baby was strong enough to live outside the womb. A recent Los Angeles Times essay recounts her harrowing tale.
Doctors told the mother, a young Indian woman in her 20s, that if she didn't treat the aggressive tumor immediately, she would likely die. But the fetus would probably not survive treatment. She decided to delay treatment and slipped into a coma within days.
"To our astonishment -- and joy -- the comatose woman 'hung in' until the 28th week," writes Linda Reid Chassiakos, a pediatrician who was involved in the case. "At that point, an ultrasound showed the fetus was probably over the 2-pound mark, and her doctors scheduled the caesarean. Gasping for air, the child was born at a size and weight that would give her a fighting chance of life."
The mother's surgery followed, and doctors removed enough of the tumor so she could regain consciousness and meet her tiny daughter. Although the baby developed lung and gastrointestinal infections, her long-term prognosis was good. The mother, however, was not so lucky. Two weeks before her little girl was released from the hospital, her mother died.
This story just about broke my heart. What a horrible choice to have to make. If I were given the same choice, I think my survival instinct would kick in and I'd opt for treatment. After all, I'd want my child to grow up with a mother. I'm truly amazed by this woman's act of bravery.
Moms, what would you do if you had to make a choice like this?
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|