Mother makes supreme sacrifice for son

FAMILY TRAGEDY: Jennifer Doolabh has breast cancer and is pregnant. In order to ensure her baby’s health, Jennifer had to minimise cancer treatment,  meaning her chances of survival are now slim. 
FAMILY TRAGEDY: Jennifer Doolabh has breast cancer and is pregnant. In order to ensure her baby’s health, Jennifer had to minimise cancer treatment, meaning her chances of survival are now slim. 

Jennifer Doolabh was never meant to fall pregnant for a third time.

She had a new partner, sure, but the doctors told her it was rare for someone in her situation. She had undergone nearly a year of chemotherapy and radiation after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.

But around June, while enduring another bout of radiation treatment and preparing for hormone therapy, she was delivered the news.

"It was a shock," she says, at her home in Hamilton.

"We just thought I couldn't get pregnant and they were just about to suppress my ovaries. I was about to go on other treatment as well."

So instead she stopped treatment, in order to give her baby a better chance of survival.

On Monday she'll finally give birth to her son Matthias - which means God's gift in Hebrew - just in time for Christmas, though she knows it could be the last one she will spend with him.

He'll be born six weeks early, but it's a wonder he will be born at all.

Because she wasn't having treatment, her condition worsened and at 22 weeks, she was given six weeks to live.

"I was getting ready to die," she says, matter of factly. "We were getting everything ready for the funeral and I was getting ready to die."

The family and doctors met to discuss what to do. For Matthias to be born healthy, she was told she would need to make it to 28 weeks. She decided to start chemotherapy again.

The effect the chemotherapy, radiation and scans will have on her son, no one will know until he is born, she says.

All along, the doctors wanted her to abort the baby - even at 23 weeks.

But Mrs Doolabh couldn't. She says she is morally opposed to abortion.

"You can't just kill a baby."

The family will have Christmas together - in the hospital.

Understandably, Christmas this year has been tough - emotionally and financially.

Since she became unable to work, the family have relied solely on her husband's income, which has been a struggle. "We've only had enough money for our bills."

Harder still has been preparing her kids for when she is gone.

"We made some videos and things like that," she says. "That was hard, saying goodbye." Her 10-year-old son Te Waraki understands, but her 5-year-old daughter Bailey doesn't, she says. "She thinks death is temporary."

And then there is Matthias.

Despite knowing she will not be there to support her son, she says she is not worried. "His father is amazing. He'll have lots of support, so he'll be fine."

It was July 2012, when Mrs Doolabh was first told she had breast cancer. It was growing fast. Months earlier she had seen the signs, she says. A sore on her nipple would not heal.

She found a lump under her arm, and a few days later more lumps on her breast.

"I already knew . . . you just kind of know. You get taken for these tests and they rush you in, take you to the hospital, and although there are lots of people waiting, you just get taken straight out the back."

The doctors were subdued, she says.

Then she remembers just crying and crying.

"It's devastating when you find out you've got cancer and you know it's quite bad."

Mrs Doolabh was 25 years old and living in Brisbane with her then partner.

The mother of two returned to Hamilton in October last year.

Mrs Doolabh met husband, Aneal, after returning to New Zealand.

"I wasn't looking for a relationship," she says, with a laugh. "But he asked me out on a date. My sister was telling me to go because he might be your future husband."

People can donate to Jennifer and her family by texting 833. A text will take $3 from each phone account and deposit it with Gallagher Family Hospice. Or they can contact Sharyn Cawood on 021 424 579. 

Fairfax Media