Carrie DeKlyen, a Michigan mother of five, started getting headaches last March. After the pains worsened she saw a doctor, and scans showed a brain tumor. According to the Chicago Tribune, the pathology report revealed something more cruel: glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive brain cancer. She would have the tumor removed in April, but the it returned less than a month later—the same week she and her husband learned she was eight weeks pregnant with their sixth child. Now the DeKlyens had a choice to make. She could try to preserve her life through chemotherapy treatment, but that would mean aborting their baby. Whose life would they try to save?
It doesn’t appear that the DeKlyens even blinked. Carrie declined cancer treatment, refusing to end her child’s life even if it cost her own. The tumor was removed a second time, but it was back by the end of June. She suffered a massive stroke in the middle of July and was hospitalized, unconscious. She would never wake again.
But her child would see the world.
On September 6, Life Lynn DeKlyen was born, weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces. Thirty-five hours later, after having her feeding and breathing tubes removed, Carrie died. She sowed her cancer-ridden body into the ground and went on to her reward. For she had learned to die like her Savior: so that someone else might live.
The DeKlyens are Christians, and they specifically chose to forgo cancer treatment in order to save their baby because they “love the Lord” and “are pro-life.” They are to be commended for having the courage to act according to their stated convictions. The word of the Lord proves true again. God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; he uses the weak to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). Refusing chemotherapy may seem foolish to the world, but this Michigan housewife put to shame weak-willed Congressmen who strut the halls of power touting exceptions for life of the mother, puffed up by their own compassion. Even this week, the 20-week pain-capable bill that passed the House contained abortion exceptions.
But Carrie DeKlyen took no exceptions for herself. Rather, she looked death in the face and ran her race with endurance. She stood atop the high mountain looking down on all the happiness of longer life chemotherapy could offer, and she said, Be gone. Like Jesus before her, she refused the easy path. For she had already resolved to live true to the gospel cry of faithful mothers everywhere: my life for yours. She filled up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ; that is, she displayed sacrificial death for the world to see today. Carrie DeKlyen is a hero of whom this bloodthirsty world is not worthy.
Her husband, Nick, deserves both our prayers and our admiration. With five other children at home, he watched his wife die. Like his Lord, who is both Lion and Lamb, DeKlyen was resolute in his commitment to his child’s life, yet tender with his dying wife. He sat at her bedside, comforting her with his words and kisses. Like his Father, who watched His Son die so that many would live, DeKlyen watched his wife die so that their baby might live. How hard it must have been to watch his wife slowly pass away, unable to do anything to fix it. What courage it took to not cut corners on righteousness. And though he was not able to sacrifice himself to save his wife—as any faithful husband would have chosen if possible—his life will still be sacrifice. For his five children remain and they must be cared for.
Sadly, only five children remain. Baby Life did not survive, dying on September 20th. This raises the question: Was it worth it? Her husband lives without his wife, and her five other children no longer have a living mother. The baby never even left the NICU. If the child was going to die anyway, shouldn’t she have tried to save herself for the greater good of living for her husband and other children? Did she make the right call?
The answer is a resounding Yes! Of course she made the right decision. For life is not utilitarian. The preciousness of life is not measured in years, or days even. The value of life is measured by the image in which it is made. It doesn’t matter if an unborn baby grows up to be the doctor that cures glioblastoma or if a baby, like Life DeKlyen, never gets a chance to grow up. Her value is in being human, being knit together in the womb in the image of the Triune God, the Most High. He is the one who determines the length of our days and the boundaries of our dwelling. We are not at liberty to decide that one life is more valuable than other, that fourteen days is too short a time to matter.
For in that fourteen-day span the world saw the fruit of the Gospel. That true love is substitutionary sacrifice. That the one who loves genuinely gives herself fully. That the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.
May the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort be near to the DeKlyen family in the days to come.
A GoFundMe page to support Nick DeKlyen and his family can be found here.