Some movies have powerful plotlines. Others have intriguing characters. The documentary “40 Weeks” has both. Director Christopher Henze follows Elizabeth Joice during her pregnancy, in which she finds out her cancer had returned from years earlier and makes the remarkable decision to put her daughter Lily’s life over her own. Here’s a brief description about her incredible story of self-sacrifice:
Just one month after finding out she was pregnant in June 2013, Elizabeth’s doctors found a tumor in her lung. They removed it with surgery, but because she was pregnant they could not give her the full body MRI scan she needed to see if her cancer was spreading or not.
Because of this, Lily was delivered almost two months early in January 2014 via C-section.
Sadly, it was too late for Elizabeth. The cancer had spread almost immediately into her second lung, her heart, and her abdomen. Though she fought the cancer for six weeks after her daughter was born, Elizabeth ultimately lost the battle on March 9.
I can’t begin to explain the range of emotions Joice must have endured as she heard the heartbreaking news her cancer had returned. But, it only makes her decision all the more profound. Her daughter was more important than the diagnosis.
This story is comparable to one of the few instances in which Hollywood producers have broadcast a pro-life message on television. In an episode of the Fox program “House,” entitled “Fetal Position,” House's patient is a mother who faces a death sentence if she continues with her pregnancy. But, like Joice, she refuses to kill her child. Dr. House insists she abort and calls her baby a “fetus” throughout the episode. But, the mother is stubborn. So, House reluctantly performs surgery to try and fix the child, and in one beautiful moment the baby reaches from its mother’s stomach and grasps House’s finger. He is clearly moved by the touch. He even finally refers to the unborn child as a “baby” by the episode’s end. The final outcome was a bit different than that of Joice, as both mother and child make it through pregnancy safely. But, the TV episode is just another example of a mother willing to put her child’s life over her own.
Life is the most miraculous gift on earth – and Joice gave it to her daughter twice. I only hope Lily grows up knowing and appreciating what a courageous mother she had.
Here’s a small clip from “40 Weeks” in which Joice describes the joy of pregnancy:
Update: If you would like to help Joice's family, Max and Lily, as they deal with her loss, consider making a donation.