Mich. mom who chose baby over cancer treatment dies

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A Michigan woman who sacrificed the chance to prolong her life in order to give birth to her sixth child has died.

Carrie DeKlyen

Nick DeKlyen tells The Associated Press that his wife, Carrie DeKlyen, 37, died early Saturday surrounded by family.

He says among the last things he said to her were, “I’ll see you in Heaven.”

Doctors removed Carrie DeKlyen’s feeding and breathing tubes on Thursday, a day after she gave birth to her daughter Life Lynn DeKlyen. The mother chose to forgo chemotherapy to treat her brain cancer, since it would have meant ending her pregnancy.

Life Lynn was born prematurely and weighs 1 pound, four ounces, but is doing well.

She’s about the size of a peanut, DeKlyen told The Detroit News on Friday.

While DeKlyen is thrilled to welcome another child to his family, his sixth, he was saying goodbye to his wife, who was dying on Friday after giving birth and being taken off life support.

Though she qualified to be in a University of Michigan clinical trial that doctors told her might have extended her life another 10, possibly 20 years, she and her husband declined because they are Christians and would have had to terminate the pregnancy for her to get chemotherapy.

Doctors told the couple she would die without treatment, but Carrie DeKlyen prayed about it and accepted that she would die soon, her husband said.

One of her last wishes was to give birth to her daughter, which she did via cesarean section after weeks of suffering excruciating pain and being on life support.

Carrie DeKlyen's baby 'Life' struggles for life in the hospital's intensive care unit.

“When she came back to ICU after the baby was delivered, I leaned over and whispered in her ear, ‘I love you. I am proud of you. You did what you set out to do,’” said Nick DeKlyen, who lives in Wyoming, on the west side of Michigan.

“It’s bittersweet,” said DeKlyen, as he choked back tears. “God gave us life but my wife is going to die. We chose to save the baby over my wife. It’s painful. I feel like my heart is torn out of my chest because it’s about as bittersweet as you can get.”

Even before she took her last breaths, he gave her a hug and said goodbye.

“I’ll see you in heaven,” he told her.

Carrie DeKlyen has been unconscious for about six weeks, but her profile picture on her Facebook page, Cure 4 Carrie, speaks for her.

With her lips puckered with a kiss, DeKlyen holds a sign with a heart that says, “L-u girl.”

“I’m just extremely proud of her,” said Sonya DeKlyen Nelson, her sister-in-law, on Friday afternoon. “I’m proud of how hard she fought to save her daughter.”

Nelson and others also have been getting to meet the new family member for the first time.

“She’s doing as well as they could expect for a baby born at such an early gestation,” Nelson said. “She’s doing really well.”

Dr. Deborah Berman, a UM associate professor in the division of Maternal Fetal Medicine in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, treated Carrie and delivered Life.

“As maternal fetal medicine specialists, we often take care of women with various high-risk maternal conditions,” Berman said. “Ms. DeKlyen’s case includes both complicated maternal and fetal conditions that required extensive multidisciplinary collaboration to honor this thoughtful family’s goals and wishes.”

Many don’t understand the decision they have made, including some in Carrie DeKlyen’s family, her husband said. But it’s about a great love they have for God, each other, their children and the belief that one day they will all be together for eternity in heaven.

Asked what Life may think one day about the decision her mother made, DeKlyen said he knows she will be proud.

“She will understand why her mom laid down her life so that she could live,” he said, “and loved her so much that she chose to have her, knowing that she’d see her in heaven one day again.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with costs accrued with caring for Carrie DeKlyen in her last days.


Associated Press and Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.