Mom with cancer 'rocking her daughter in heaven'

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

When Carrie DeKlyen found out she was pregnant with her sixth child, she told her husband she had a dream that she was rocking a baby girl.

But Carrie DeKlyen never got to hold her daughter — the west Michigan woman died this month, three days after giving birth. She chose to succumb to brain cancer at age 37 instead of undergoing experimental treatments that may have prolonged her life but would have meant the death of the unborn child.

This October 2013 family photo shows Carrie DeKlyen and husband Nick DeKlyen in Grand Rapids, Mich. Carrie DeKlyen sacrificed the chance to prolong her life to give birth to her sixth child.

The baby girl, who the couple named Life Lynn, was born at a University of Michigan hospital on Sept. 6 at 24 weeks — the earliest a baby can be born and be expected to survive. She weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces, and garnered worldwide attention as her mother chose her daughter’s life over her own.

But Nick DeKlyen was remembering his wife’s dream after Life Lynn died around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, at 2 weeks old.

“Now the dream she told me is now making sense,” said DeKlyen, 39. “I never thought it would be heaven, but I know that is what she is doing. She is rocking her daughter in heaven.”

Life Lynn’s death was revealed Thursday morning on the couple’s Facebook page, Cure 4 Carrie.

“It is with great sadness and a absolutely broken heart that I tell you Life Lynn passed away last night,” according to the post. “Carrie is now rocking her baby girl. I have no explanation of why this happened, but I do know Jesus loves us and someday we will know why. The grief we feel is almost unbearable, please be praying for our family.”

Hundreds of people responded to the post, expressing sadness and offering condolences.“My heart aches for your family,” wrote Sue Fountain-Canales. “Lifting you all up in prayer and that you will find strength and comfort through this very difficult journey.”

Added Penny Blackburn: “Oh, my. My heart just breaks for all of you. We just can’t let it shake our faith though. We are not God, we just do not know everything. The end of the story for the Deklyen family is NOT over. There are still living members who can still be strong and courageous through this time of sadness. There is a time to laugh, and a time to cry. A time to mourn and a time to dance. Joy will come again.”

Nick DeKlyen is planning a private graveside ceremony for Life Lynn and hoping to bury her at the feet of his wife, who is resting in Georgetown Cemetery in Jenison, Michigan. Later Thursday, this was confirmed in a post on the Facebook page.

"We will not be having a normal funeral for Life Lynn. We will be burying her with Carrie tomorrow. Please continue to pray for our family," the post said.

Soon after Carrie DeKlyen found out she had brain cancer earlier this year, she learned that she was pregnant. She qualified to be in a UM clinical trial that doctors told her might have extended her life another 10, possibly 20 years. She and her husband declined the treatment 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.

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

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. She died Sept. 9.

Many were rooting for Life Lynn, who was in a neonatal unit at UM, and her trials and triumphs were chronicled on Facebook.

“Praying everyday for baby Life,” wrote Elizabeth Lamse on one of the posts. “Time in the NICU can be scary. It’s such a roller coaster. We claim healing and strength in the name of Jesus! Keep touching her Nick! Keep fighting baby girl.”

During a stop on his drive from Ann Arbor to his home in Wyoming, on the west side of Michigan, Nick DeKlyen said that his mother went to bed 20 minutes before his daughter died because the baby’s vital signs were good.

Then, things changed quickly.

Life Lynn developed a leak in one of her lungs, which collapsed before she slipped away, DeKlyen said.

“I told her Daddy loves her and to hang and keep fighting but that didn’t work,” said DeKlyen. “She’s in heaven with Mommy now.”

He said he was still trying to make sense of why God didn’t intervene and save his wife and infant daughter, who died within two weeks of each other.

“The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust,” DeKlyen said. “There are just things you can’t explain. I wish I had the answer as to why my wife died and my daughter died. Regardless of what happened, I still chose to follow God and do it his way. When I get to heaven one day, I will ask why. I know he has a reason for everything.”

DeKlyen said earlier this week that Life Lynn had almost passed away on Sept. 12, the same day that Carrie DeKlyen was buried.

When he rushed to the University of Michigan hospital after her funeral, the doctors asked if he wanted to hold her one last time.

But he declined the doctors’ offer, telling them that would be like throwing in the towel. Then, he told the doctors to do all they could – and she pulled through.

Mich. mom who chose baby over cancer treatment dies

After months spent in Ann Arbor, DeKlyen was traveling back to the west side of the state Thursday with a heavy heart to pick up his five children from his sister’s house and comfort them.

“I am just going to get my kids and love on them and be there for them,” DeKlyen said.

“It’s over. I am going to try and move on,” said DeKlyen, his voice cracking. “I am just going to go home and start living.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with costs accrued with caring for Carrie DeKlyen in her last days, and had raised more than $163,000 as of Thursday.