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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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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