Teen Battling Brain Cancer During Pregnancy Dies After Fighting to Give Birth

Dana Scatton

On April 22, Dana Scatton lost her battle with cancer and was unable to say goodbye to her daughter because the disease had taken away her ability to speak.

The illness had come on suddenly and robbed the young mother-to-be of the joyous months preceding the birth of her baby, but she refused to let it stop her from safely bringing her little girl into this world.

  • In the fall of 2017, Dana Scatton was in a happy place.

    The Pennsylvania teen had just started college and was seven-and-a-half-months pregnant with a baby girl that she was looking forward to welcoming into the world.

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  • But then came the strange symptoms that quickly became terrifying.

    Dana -- who turned 18 the following January, thought at first that they were just pregnancy symptoms. 

    “I was really overtired,” she told The Daily Advertiser. “But things kept getting worse. I was forgetting to swallow and my speech got weird. Then my legs started not responding to things -- when I would walk, my legs would drag. That’s when I really got concerned.”

  • After going to the emergency room and getting a CT scan, Dana and her family got the devastating news.

    Doctors found a lesion on her brain, and an MRI revealed that she had a 2.3-centimeter cancerous brain tumor. Dana was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), the deadliest form of brain cancer and the one most commonly found in children.

    On December 12, 2017, Dana and her mother met with Dr. Jean Belasco, a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, to discuss her treatment options.

  • Dana asked the doctor point blank what the survival rate was for her form of cancer. “And she said there is none.”

    “It was a lot to take in,” said Dana’s mother, Lenore. “But we prayed and thanked God in the office that day.”

    When Dana met with her doctors the week before that Christmas to map out her radiation treatments, she had already decided that she would wait until after she had delivered her baby to start. The mom-to-be feared the effect the treatment would have on her unborn child and fearlessly refused to put her unborn baby's health at risk.

    But the expectant mom’s condition deteriorated rapidly. She was having difficulty breathing and was no longer unable to climb the stairs at home.

  • She was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Day 2017, and she started radiation the next day.

    Doctors assured Dana that the radiation wouldn’t harm her unborn baby. 

    “I feel like God just directed the doctors to help decide what I should do,” Dana said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start radiation without having the baby because I didn’t want it to hurt her. But I couldn’t decide what to do -- it was too hard.”

    Dana had already had several rounds of radiation when, on January 2, doctors noticed her condition declining and decided to deliver her baby early.

  • On January 4, 2018, Dana gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Aries Marie. She weighed 4 lb. 6 oz.

    “I just want to share to everyone how strong my little girl is,” Dana shared in a Facebook post. "She was born 33 weeks 4 days came out doing everything on her own!” 

    Dana continued treatments for her cancer, even traveling to Mexico at one point to take part in some extremely costly experimental therapies.

  • But the disease took its toll on the young mother, and Dana passed away two days after Easter 2019.

    According to her family on Facebook, Dana died in the early morning. "She inspired us all to be better than who we are and to keep God in our focus at every moment," they wrote. "She faced the greatest fear of all, death, and smiled back with a grin only God can instill. She fought harder than the toughest warriors known to man and did it with grace and valor."

    Her family would like to remember the spirited young woman who was devoted to her little girl and fought so bravely to stay with her for every second she could.

    “We may never have the right things to say to truly honor the amazing, smart, loving, caring, passionate, incredibly beautiful and free spirited mother, daughter, niece, sister, cousin, friend and independent woman Dana was every day,” they added in a Facebook post tribute.

  • While she was here, Dana inspired many with her courage and her fierce love for life.

    “It was such a wake-up call, getting death thrown in your face … it’s so real … it really shows you what’s true. This world doesn’t matter … it’s temporary, you know?” she told the Daily Advertiser.  

    “When I found out, immediately, I just let the whole world go … We all think we are gonna have so much time. Honestly, I feel thankful I have this time to wake up and realize what’s right. And I want everybody to see that … Death happens in the blink of an eye. I want people to realize how important it is to make things right.”