John Jalsevac

EXCLUSIVE: Young mother with cancer sacrifices life for unborn child

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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April 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) –  In August of last year Jessica Council – a beautiful, 30-year-old mother of one – noticed that she had a sore throat. At around the same time, she also began to suspect that she was pregnant.

When after two weeks the sore throat had not gone away, Jessica decided to have it checked out. Her doctor told her that it was probably a thyroid goiter, and ultimately nothing to be too concerned about. Just to be sure, however, he had a test done, which he said confirmed his initial suspicions. Everything would be ok, he said.

But everything was not ok. The doctor had misread the test. 

Around November 15th, Jessica began having trouble breathing. On November 21st she landed in the emergency room. Then, on November 22nd, her throat closed up so tightly that she could not breathe, at which point doctors managed to insert a tube down her throat, and put her on a ventilator. 

The following day, November 23rd, Jessica was informed that she had cancer. By then, she also knew for certain that she was with child.

Thus began a journey that would put the faith and pro-life convictions of Jessica and her husband, Clint, to the ultimate test.

“It was worth every day”

Jessica and Clint met at Greenville College School. In a lengthy interview with LifeSiteNews.com, Clint said that he had spotted the gorgeous redhead sitting one day in the university dining hall, and asked if he could join her. She refused. But Clint didn’t give up. 

(Read the complete interview with Clint here)

In fact, it took Clint a year and a half of pestering before Jessica agreed to go on a date; the couple married two and a half years after that. “I guess when you know you know,” he said. “I had to work really hard for her, but it was worth every day.”

The pair moved to Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina, where they had a son and worked at a Christian charity as youth mentors. Life was good: they were young, in love, healthy, and enjoying life. 

Clint points out that his wife always took meticulous care of herself. “She’s always been extremely, extremely healthy,” he said. “Watched what she ate very carefully. Tried to honor God with her body. Exercised regularly.” 

For this reason, the last thing either of them expected was the cancer that struck last August.

No more options

Clint describes his wife’s reaction to the news of the cancer in her throat as “a mixture of fear and surprise.” As for himself, he says he felt “just every emotion you can think of … except for joy. I was a basket case.”

But, of course, Jessica wasn’t the only one threatened by the cancer: she was pregnant, and any treatments she underwent would almost certainly harm, and possibly even kill her unborn child.

On November 25th, the hospital’s OB/GYN offered the couple an abortion. Clint says Jessica never hesitated. “That was never an option,” he said. “That is black and white.”

But what was less black and white was whether or not to accept treatments: while the oncologist said chemotherapy would likely kill the baby, the OB/GYN disagreed, saying the baby would probably survive, but suffer brain damage.

“Jessica looked at me, and it took her a few seconds,” says Clint, “and she shook her head ‘no.’” She also refused radiation therapy because of its similar risks.

“We really didn’t have a lot of treatment options after that,” said Clint, pointing out that surgery was never an option because of where the cancer was.

“She did not wake up”

The treatment question came up again when the baby reached the third trimester. At that point, says Clint, the decision was much more difficult, with the doctors claiming that the risks were minimal because the baby was almost fully developed.

However, Jessica still refused the treatments for the sake of her unborn child – a decision that Clint says left her doctors “very confused.” 

Clint confides that neither he nor his wife felt doctors were being completely straightforward about the risks. But he also says that his wife had another reason for refusing the treatments.

“She knew she was going to die anyway,” he says. “She didn’t share that with me until almost when she died. ... But I think she knew, and she was thinking she was going to give this baby every chance she could.”

Although the couple found some success with alternative methods to stem the cancer’s growth, including a strict diet of organic vegetable juices and supplements, without more aggressive treatments it was only a matter of time before the cancer got the upper hand.

A 23-week miracle

On the night of February 5, Jessica went to sleep with a headache and nausea. “She did not wake up,” says Clint.

The following day Jessica was near death, and Clint gave the doctors the go-ahead to deliver by C-section. On February 6, little “Jessi” was born, weighing only 1 lb 3 oz. 

Doctors had thought that Jessica was 25 weeks pregnant, but after they delivered the baby they realized that she was likely only about 23 and a half weeks along – the absolute threshold of viability. 

“I can only testify to God’s grace on that, because Jessica died right when the baby was viable for life outside the womb,” says Clint. Doctors say baby Jessi is doing well.

“Emotionally brutal”

Clint describes the whole experience as “emotionally brutal,” and admits that despite his firm Christian and pro-life convictions, it was the farthest thing from easy to take the path that he and his wife did.

“Yes, I did struggle,” he says, “because in the Bible the one person that we’re commanded to love more than myself, this was her. I did struggle.”

“Sometimes it’s easier to be selfless as far as whatever happens to you,” he points out, “but when it comes down to losing the one you love more than anything else, it’s very difficult.”

It was also difficult for their two-and-a-half-year-old son. Clint recounts that after Jessica went into the hospital, his son was unable to see her for about a month, and during that time he wouldn’t even look at or speak to his father. But after he got to visit his mother, “he started doing better,” says Clint.

After Jessica’s death the boy suffered a period of acute “separation anxiety,” although his father says he has begun to adjust.

As for Clint himself, barely two months after his wife’s death, he says that he is operating on autopilot, staying busy with work and caring for his two children.

At this point he pauses.  “I’m going to be very open,” he says, remarking that he wants to do whatever he can to help others who might be in a similar situation. “For about the first month, I could not - and I mean that as in a literal inability - I could not read my Bible, I could not pray.”

He describes the feeling as akin to that of a child being disciplined by a parent: “Even though I knew cognitively that the relationship was there, I knew [God] loved me, I accepted all these things from a mental standpoint. I felt nothing, spiritually.

“And it’s not about the feelings, but the delight in God was completely gone for about a month. I was functioning solely on what I knew to be true from a mental standpoint.”

Now, however, he says he has moved beyond that first stage, and has begun to pray again, including for other people.

Nevertheless, he says there will probably come a time when he will have to drop everything, and properly mourn the loss of his wife.

“God be praised”

Even though the weariness and the suffering is palpable in Clint’s voice, in speaking to him one detects something else as well – a deep resignation born not of despair, but of an authentic, rooted faith that accepts that this suffering was ultimately meaningful, and that there are worse tragedies even than death. 

In a note penned less than two weeks after Jessica’s death, and posted to a blog about her struggle with cancer, Clint wrote the last words many would expect to hear from a man who has just lost a young wife whom he dearly loved. 

“God is to be praised, my Friends,” he said. “Do not doubt God; do not be angry with Him for me. 

“I am privileged to have had a Wife who was so full of the love of the Father. Rejoice with me, Brothers and Sisters. God has blessed Jessica in taking her to place of perfect peace and no pain. I must be thankful for the time that I had with her rather than ungrateful for all the things we never got to do together. We must give thanks in all things for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ.

“Grace and Peace to all.”

(Read the complete interview with Clint here)

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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Growing ‘Women Against Feminism’ movement draws fury

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By Hilary White
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Critics of feminism have long said that it is entering the final stages of its long career, with more of its assertions about the nature of human sexual and social relations being contradicted by the evidence and fewer young people following its dictates every decade. But in the last few weeks, it seems that feminism’s last gasp is being used to direct insults at young women who are lining up to publicly reject and ridicule it.

The Tumblr site Women Against Feminism has started a social networking trend in which thousands of young women photograph themselves holding signs bluntly denouncing feminism, giving a sharp indication that the feminist brand has become poison to young, hip, and internet-savvy women.

Mainstream and journalistic feminists have lashed out at the site and its followers, entering into an online spat over the increasingly popular photos. The signs say, “I am not a victim,” and “This is what an anti-feminist looks like.”

They continue: “I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions. I define myself and derive my value by my own standards. I don’t need to be ‘empowered’. I am not a target for violence and there is no war against me. I respect me and I refuse to demonize them and blame them for my problems.”

The messages held by the women pinpoint with pithy and acerbic precision exactly the reasons given by many critics that the movement has lost favour with young people. They call it a creed of double standards that promotes victimhood and endorses bullying of anyone who critiques it.

The site’s explanatory page, which was taken down for unknown reasons in the last two days, said, “Feminists are the only people who lose their minds with rage when you tell them that women already have the same exact rights as men. That’s not good enough. They want more. They desperately want to be victims. They want a privileged social position.”

The author goes on to accuse feminism in general of systematic censorship, discrimination, elitism and “policing other women” who do not toe the line – as well as baseline misandry. The anonymous creator denounced feminism’s adoption of “abortion as ‘empowerment’”:

This opinion is unpopular, but I don’t agree that I need to have my baby scraped out of my uterus in order to feel empowered. But the abortion industry (i.e. Planned Parenthood) makes a ton of money off this perversion of empowerment. ‘Abortion as empowerment’ teaches women to see their wombs as nothing but garbage bins full of disposable waste.

One of the contributors wrote, “I don’t need feminism because my self-worth is not directly tied to my victim complex. As a woman in the western world I am not oppressed, and neither are you,” says one. Another: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need to bully someone to share my opinions with others.”

Some come right out and say that feminism promotes exactly the evils it purports to fight against: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Although the site and its contentious photos have been running around the internet for many months, arguments among journalism’s feminists started breaking out this week after a mocking Buzzfeed feature helped the site gain momentum on social media outlets.

Some feminist journalists simply flung insults. Lillian Kalish sniffed on Ryot, “These Women Who Think They Don’t Need Feminism Don’t Know What Feminism Is.” “Did these posters ever think to look up the actual definition of feminism?”

Nuala McKeever, in the Belfast Telegraph, called the women posting the photos “silly, ignorant, vacuous wee girls with absolutely no thoughts beyond their own self-absorbed inanities.”

Time Magazine’s Sarah Miller said, “I Really, Truly, Fully Hate ‘Women Against Feminism’—But…” Miller wrote, “[T]he tendency to see sexism everywhere is proof that feminism is healthy and vigilant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, because misogyny is insidious and rampant… We need feminism.”

But Miller added, “Still, the pain that we experience as women—even physical—does not give us the right to tell people there’s one way to think or feel, or to assume that we have some god-like understanding of everyone’s motivations.”

Cathy Young, however, responded in Time, saying, “Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right.” She writes, “The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists—but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

The site, Young says, “raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st Century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.”

Sarah Boesveld wrote in the National Post on Friday that the site shows that feminism has become “complicated” and “sometimes alienating.” She quotes an email sent to the paper by 22 year-old Australian Lisa Sandford, who “believes in equality for the sexes” but firmly rejects feminism as “rude and nasty” and intends to be a stay-at-home mother. 

Sandford wrote, “If feminism really accepted equality, they would not tell me my views are wrong, they would accept it and let me be.”

Browse the 'Women Against Feminism' archives here (warning: occasional strong language).


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Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

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Welcome Baby Filipino 100 Million!

Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse
By Steven W. Mosher and Anne Roback Morse

Population Research Institute welcomes the birth of little Chonalyn Sentino. Baby Chonalyn was born this past Sunday to parents Clemente and Dailin, and was feted in the Philippines as “Baby 100 Million.” PRI welcomes Baby Chonalyn as well, saying that she will be a blessing to her family, her community, and her nation.

The Philippines is one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, and its people value children. For this reason, it has been a target of the population controllers for decades. It was one of the countries singled out by Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council in 1974 for special “attention” and, more recently, has been bullied by the Obama administration into passing its first population control law. 

The bill, which was touted as being all about promoting “reproductive health,” was actually intended to drive down the birth rate. For example, section 15 requires that all couples receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the local Family Planning Office before becoming eligible for a marriage license.

Some in the Philippines are decrying Chonalyn’s birth, repeating USAID’s talking points about the “dangers” of overpopulation. They welcome Chonalyn as an individual little girl, while simultaneously calling for future little girls and boys to be removed from existence.

The Philippine Star wrote that the birth symbolized a “large population that will put a strain on the country's limited resources.” Another paper cited the executive director of the official Commission on Population who bluntly said “We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime.” And the Global Post cited “concerned advocates” who thought the current population was not a “complement with the country's economic growth.”

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But many other Filipinos aren’t buying into the anti-people hysteria. Francisco Antonio, a Filipino Chemical Engineering graduate student at Yale, adamantly rebutted the notion that there are too many Filipinos, saying: “I celebrate life because population control is defeatism disguised as pragmatism. And because human creativity holds more potential for protecting this planet and its inhabitants than any other resource I know of.”

A Filipina currently living in California told PRI that she welcomed the transition of her country to 100 million persons: “Filipinos are not a burden to the world population, because we not only care for our own but also for others in the world. One of the greatest and most sought after exports of the Philippines is our skilled, motivated, and exemplary workforce. And these workers tirelessly cultivate their family and community abroad and in the Philippines. We are a very social and civic minded people. We care and share because it is part of our culture and we do it with a smile.”

 Ed, a Filipino accountant, also celebrated the birth of Baby Chonalyn: “The typical Filipino does not associate a baby with ‘cost’ or ‘expense’ but rather as a ‘blessing’ and a ‘gift.’ This is because Filipinos recognize that true happiness does not come from the accumulation of material wealth or prestige, but rather, from true, genuine, and strong relationships with other people. [Filipinos] value life, not because the Church says or the Pope says so, but because they recognize it to be true. And the truth about the value of life, will continue to shine, long after the debates are over.”

It goes without saying that we at the Population Research Institute also welcome Chonalyn’s birth. We need more Filipinos, not fewer. 

Reprinted with permission from Pop.org.


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John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

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Two very different ways to respond to Pope Francis’ unrecorded interviews

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By John-Henry Westen

In the last few weeks another series of interviews with Pope Francis surfaced and have again left many Catholics scratching their heads.  Headlines all over the world had the Pope saying that two percent of priests are pedophiles, but is that what he said?  Even though the Vatican spokesman did issue a clarification, that question and others remain unanswered.

Critical reactions to these interviews have been interesting not even so much for their contents as from whom they arise.  These are the observations of some of the most faithful Catholic Church watchers today.  The folks pointing out these concerns are not, as many would assume, ‘“far right-wing-holier-than-the-Pope” types, but mainstream Catholics known for their loyalty to Pope Francis.

Phillip Lawler is the founder of Catholic World News, the first Catholic news service operating on the Internet. In part of his criticism of the most recent interview, he states: “Why was Pope Francis speaking with Scalfari without having first established clear ground rules for the conversation—rules that would certainly include recording and verification of any quotes?”

(To comprehend the situation accurately it is necessary to have an understanding of the man whom the Pope has allowed to interview him.  Eugenio Scalfari is relatively unknown in the West even after the fanfare of his papal interviews. LifeSiteNews has produced this piece to assist that understanding.)

Lawler recalls: “Back in October the Vatican had been embarrassed by an ‘interview’ in which [Scalfari’s] reconstructed quotes caused an uproar, and the Vatican press office was forced to issue an awkward ‘clarification’ which only added to the confusion.”

In addition to that clarification of the October Scalfari interview, the confusion and uproar got so bad that the Vatican removed the interview from their website, where they had it posted in the section containing the Pope’s speeches. Interestingly, that interview resurfaced two weeks ago on the Vatican website only to be removed again after a new round of criticism.

A blogger at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register offered an observation similar to Lawler’s but with a little more bite. Pat Archbold writes, “The internet is once again abuzz with the second-hand hearsay of an unrecorded Papal interview.” Archbold advises his readers with characteristic sarcasm, “So pay no attention to those crazy and outlandish anti-Catholic headlines tearing up your RSS feed.  Just ignore them and hope they will soon go away, just like unrecorded Papal interviews.”

A second unrecorded conversation with the Pope makes news

Another write-up of an encounter with Pope Francis also caused a stir.  Brian Stiller, an Evangelical leader from Toronto was part of a delegation of Evangelical Christians who met with Pope Francis earlier this month. In his July 9 account, Stiller puts in quotes this statement he attributes to the Pope: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”

That led noted priest-blogger Father Dwight Longenecker to first caution that the quotes are “Brian Stiller’s memory of the conversation.” 

Then with the caveat of not actually knowing the whole conversation, Fr. Longenecker says “it would not be unusual for a Catholic priest of Pope Francis’ generation to feel that way.”  He explains that he has “heard from numerous convert clergy over the years who said when they went to their local Catholic priest and expressed the wish to become Catholic the priest told them it wasn’t necessary and that they could do much more good to Christ’s kingdom and the Catholic church by staying where they were and evangelizing within their own denomination.”

“Now this strikes me as rather troublesome on several levels,” says Longenecker. He notes he had himself once used that line with a Protestant friend, to which his friend replied, “You don’t want to convert me? Why not? I don’t have much respect for your religion if you think so little of it that you don’t want me to share it!”

“He basically called me out on what was a little lie on my part. I wanted to be nice to him [so] I said I didn’t want to convert him. He said our discussion would be much better if I admitted that I did want him to become Catholic. He was right. I did. I still do.”

Inside the Vatican

Vatican journalist Edward Pentin has reported that unnamed “Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed” about the interview. Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002 and has since covered the pope for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.

“The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify,” he wrote for Newsmax.

From the outset of the Francis pontificate, there were these unrecorded and yet published interviews – the first was from a meeting with Latin American religious leaders in June 2013.  That was the one that had Pope Francis speaking of the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and also about being concerned about Catholics who would count rosaries to offer prayer bouquets.

At the time LifeSiteNews published nothing on that first unrecorded interview even though almost all other news services did.  Shortly thereafter I was at the Vatican inquiring about that unrecorded but reported-on encounter and was assured by various Vatican insiders that the communication was not accidental but intended – to me at the time a rather startling revelation.

But that same assessment came later from another Vatican quarter, a man who speaks German as does the pope and also shares the pope’s religious order.  “Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” said Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio in a May interview with The Atlantic. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Two different ways to respond

One of the most disturbing outcomes of these ‘interviews’ is that the words and interpretations of what is being said by the Pope, while they may be clear for the German Jesuit, are remarkably unclear for the vast majority of Catholics.  Catholics who know well their faith, its moral teachings, and the reason for them are few and far between. They are able to discern that the Pope cannot mean to undermine Church teaching; that those teachings are unchangeable.

But most people are taken in by the media’s false interpretation that ‘who am I to judge’ involves a new acceptance of homosexuality; the false possibility for legitimately-married Catholics to divorce and remarry outside the Church and still receive Communion; the idea that the Church should quiet down on her teachings on abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage.”  All of those false conclusions were drawn from previous Francis interviews.

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There are two ways forward for faithful Catholics in such a situation.  One way – a way that is most tempting - was recently recognized as a growing tendency by blogger Father Ray Blake. “Most Catholics but especially clergy want to be loyal to the Pope in order to maintain the unity of the Church,” he said.  “Today that loyalty is perhaps best expressed through silence.”

In leading up to that observation, Blake noted that in the previous pontificate “there was a solidity and certainty in Benedict's teaching which made discussion possible and stimulated intellectual honesty, one knew where the Church and the Pope stood.”  He added, “Today we are in less certain times, the intellectual life of the Church is thwart with uncertainty.”

However, Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke suggested a different approach recently. According to Burke, who serves as head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, and thus bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings (on life and family) and make them clear for the faithful.”

He told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”

Cardinal Burke’s strategy confronts the culture head-on even on the most difficult issues.  He sees that the often-used but failed tactic of avoiding difficult situations, of obfuscating or compromising on moral issues as worse than useless.

When truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfill ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.

When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.


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