Mother puts her child's life above her own

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 17:54 31/03/2014
Liz

MOTHER'S LOVE: Liz spends some precious time with her newborn baby girl.

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When a New York woman became pregnant against odds last year, she faced a fatal choice: to preserve her life, or her daughter's.

Cancer patient Elizabeth Joice was told she would never have children, so when she got pregnant last year, she knew she wouldn't get a second chance.

"Having a kid was one of the most important things in the world to her," her husband Max told The New York Post.

The couple had to decide between terminating the pregnancy for cancer treatment, or delaying treatment for the sake of the baby.

"She said, 'If we terminate the pregnancy and it turns out I can't have a baby [later], I'll be devastated.' She knew this might be her only chance," Max said.

Elizabeth and Mark had been together for two years when Elizabeth was found to have cancer in 2010.

"The day the doctors called us with the results is also the day I proposed to her," Max said. "She said, 'If it's terminal, I'm not even going to fight. Let's travel the world until I keel over.' "

While Elizabeth released frustration by punching the wall, Max went into the kitchen and rummaged through drawers.

He returned holding a ring made of tin foil.

"I said, 'You don't have the option not to fight' and proposed to her then," Max said. "We got married a month later."

Elizabeth, then 36, had four rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, and then more chemo, to eradicate the tumour.

She remained in remission for three years. The couple hoped against all hope to have a family. Finally, in June 2013, Elizabeth discovered she was pregnant.

"I totally blew a gasket," Max said. "They said there was no chance this was happening - and here it was happening."

But one month later, the cancer had returned.

Doctors removed the mass, but Elizabeth could not undergo MRI scans while she was pregnant. This meant her oncologist had no idea if the cancer was growing.

Baby Lily was born almost two months early, via C-section, in January this year. Elizabeth's health deteriorated as the cancer spread to her lungs, heart, and abdomen.

"We said our goodbyes," Max said. "It was like something out of a movie. We sat there and cried. We tried to tell stories, talk about all the great things."

"Liz came home five days after Lily was born," Max said. "That one night at home was all we had."

Elizabeth died on March 9 in hospital.

"Liz had this way about her," Max said. "She had this positive energy that made you want to be the best version of yourself. She was intolerant of self-pity."

Born on March 14, 1977 Elizabeth had grown up parentless after her mother died and her father disappeared. She worked in real estate for a decade, and was active with cancer charities.

Friends and family of the couple are raising money to help Max provide for Lily. Meanwhile, a documentary called "40 Weeks" is being made about the family's journey.

"Liz's magic rubbed off on Lily," Max said. "She's beautiful and remarkable. It provides me with the strength to get through this."

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Check out the video Max posted in dedication to his late wife.

- Stuff

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