Stacie Crimm received the shock of her life when she discovered she was pregnant at age 41; especially since she had been informed that she could never have children. A first pregnancy after age 40, unassisted by In Vitro Fertilization is extremely rare. One might even say it was a miracle, at least Crimm thought so. Unfortunately her celebration would be short-lived. She subsequently developed headaches, tremors and double vision which in the world of medicine means brain tumor until proven otherwise. A CT scan confirmed that it was. Crimm was 1 out of 1500 pregnant women who have cancer.

As mentioned in my previous blog entitled What You Should Know about Pregnancy and Cancer, as women delay childbearing to ages 30 and 40, there is an increased incidence of cancer because it peaks after age 40. Chemotherapy can be life-saving for the mother but be life-threatening for the unborn fetus and it certainly cannot be used during the first trimester. Crimm was faced with a life-altering decision. She could accept chemotherapy in an attempt to prolong her life or reject chemotherapy in order to protect her unborn child from potential harm. She made the ultimate sacrifice and refused to accept chemotherapy although it usually will have little, if any adverse effect on the fetus during the second and third trimester.

Four months before her due date, Crimm collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital. Her baby’s heart rate dropped to 70 beats per minutes and Crimm had stopped breathing. Although she was resuscitated, a decision was made to perform an emergency C. Section in order to save the baby’s life. Crimm’s health further deteriorated. The tumor had damaged one of her eyes and paralyzed her throat. Her baby girl, who weighed less than 2 pounds, was in the neonatal intensive care unit in another building.  Both mother and daughter were initially too sick to be moved in order to see the other. The ingenuous nurses figured out a way to transport the baby so that Crimm could finally hold her. It was an endearing moment that ended too soon. Crimm died three days after holding her baby, who she named Dottie Mae.

The sacrifice of Crimm reflects a powerful lesson: “Death does not necessarily diminish us. It also deepens our awareness of what it means to be alive.”