Breast cancer mum makes ultimate sacrifice for her son

Jennifer and Aneal Doolabh on their wedding day in October 2013. Jennifer was around 25 weeks pregnant.
Jennifer and Aneal Doolabh on their wedding day in October 2013. Jennifer was around 25 weeks pregnant. Photo: Facebook

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 to get pregnant.

She had undergone nearly a year of chemotherapy and radiation after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. But around June 2013, while enduring another bout of radiation treatment and preparing for hormone therapy, she was told that she was expecting.

Wonder baby ... Jennifer Doolabh after giving birth to son Matthias on December 23.
Wonder baby ... Jennifer Doolabh after giving birth to son Matthias on December 23. 

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

"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."

Instead, she stopped treatment, in order to give her baby a better chance of survival. Jennifer's condition then worsened quickly; at 22 weeks, she was given six weeks to live.

"I was getting ready to die," she says. "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.


No one will know the effect the chemotherapy, radiation and scans will have on her son for a while after his birth, she says.

All along, the doctors wanted her to abort the baby, even at 23 weeks. But Jennifer is morally opposed to abortion, and couldn't do it. 

She progressed through the pregnancy and on Monday gave birth to Matthias - his name means "God's gift" in Hebrew. He was six weeks early, but healthy. 

Jennifer knows it could be the last Christmas she'll spend with Matthias and her other children - son Te Waraki, 10, and daughter Bailey, 5 - and husband Aneal, who she married in October this year. 

The family had Christmas together - in the hospital.

Understandably, it was a tough time for them all, emotionally and financially.

Harder still has been preparing the children for when she is gone.

"We made some videos and things like that," she says. "That was hard, saying goodbye."

Jennifer says that her 10-year-old understands what's happening, but her 5-year-old doesn't quite get it yet, as she thinks "death is temporary".

And then there is Matthias.

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

A timeline of Jennifer's cancer

It was July 2012 when Jennifer was first told she had breast cancer, and it was growing fast. Months earlier she had seen the signs, she says, when a sore on her nipple wouldn't heal. She said she was too embarrassed to see a doctor about it for seven months.

Then she found a lump under her arm, and a few days later, more lumps on her breast. It has now spread to her lungs. 

"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."

At the time, Jennifer was 25 years old and living in Brisbane with her then partner.

She returned to New Zealand in October last year, and then met her now husband, Aneal. 

"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 'go because he might be your future husband'."

Follow Jennifer's journey on her family's Facebook page

 - Waikato Times