Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
In March 2017, Carrie DeKlyen first experienced what she thought were migraine headaches. A few weeks later, the busy mother of five visited the doctor, expecting an easy fix; instead, she learned that she had a brain tumor. The news just got worse and worse. Doctors first thought it was lymphoma; but after surgery, pathology tests and an MRI revealed that DeKlyen had glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest type of brain tumor. Without chemotherapy, she would die.
Oh, and the blood tests also revealed that she was pregnant.
Doctors told Carrie that unless she agreed to abort the fetus, she could not participate in clinical trials which could prolong or even save her life. But Carrie and her husband Nick, from the small western Michigan town of Wyoming, believed in the sanctity of life. As Nick explained, “Me and my wife, we are people of faith. We love the Lord with everything in us. We talked about it, prayed about it.”
And despite the warnings of the surgeon, the DeKlyens chose to continue the pregnancy, even though it meant that Carrie could receive no treatment and would surely die.
In June, DeKlyen began to experience severe headaches that left her nauseous. Nineteen weeks into her pregnancy, she ended up in the emergency room, where she lost consciousness. It was too late to save her, the doctors said, but they might be able to save her baby.
And so the comatose DeKlyen was put on devices to help her breathe and keep her alive, until the baby was strong enough to survive outside the womb.
On Wednesday, September 6, just 24 weeks and five days into the pregnancy, Carrie and Nick's baby girl entered the world weighing just 567 grams (1 pound, four ounces). In neonatal intensive care, the baby is doing well – gaining weight and, Nick says, “almost breathing on her own.” She's been given the name “Life Lynn”, the name chosen by her parents two years ago, before Carrie's illness and after the birth of their fifth child.
The following day, September 7, doctors removed the feeding and breathing tubes that kept Carrie alive. And on Saturday, September 9, surrounded by her loving family, Carrie died.
Faith played an important part in the lives of the DeKlyens. According to Carrie's obituary in the Detroit Free Press, they met in church when Carrie was just 10 and Nick was 12. They were married for 17 years and had five children ranging in age from two to 18, before she was diagnosed with cancer.
Nick DeKleyn's last words to his wife, as she lay in her hospital bed, were “I'll see you in heaven.”
Carrie's story is reminiscent of the story of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, the Italian physician and mother who refused both an abortion and a hysterectomy while pregnant with her fourth child – even though she knew that her own life was at stake. Saint Gianna died in April 1962, after giving birth to a daughter, and was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on May 16, 2004.
May God welcome Carrie home, and may He comfort her loving family with the promise of eternal life.