An 18-year-old woman from Pennsylvania who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer on Dec. 10, 2017, while seven-and-a-half-months pregnant, says she “has no fear” thanks to her strong faith and love for her 2-week-old daughter.
Dana Scatton, a college freshman in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, learned she has a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma tumor, a deadly and rare form of brain cancer, after severe symptoms brought her to the hospital during her third trimester. The teen started experiencing speech issues and she had difficulty moving her legs.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Scatton tells PEOPLE about her grim diagnosis. “But in that moment I gave it to God. There is nothing else I could have done.”
Scatton held off on treatment as long as she could out of fear that it would harm her baby, but when her symptoms became debilitating, she was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Day and had to immediately start radiation. Just days later, on Jan. 4, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, whom she named Aires Marie.
“Aries got the right amount of time that she needed to be in there and God protected her in my belly,” Scatton says. “I knew I was raising a healthy baby, it was just me that was sick. I knew that I had to keep pushing for her. I did the things that I had to do.”
Scatton says the best day of her life was the day she became a mom.
“I was relieved that I was able to be awake when she came out,” says Scatton. “I saw her right away. That was a blessing and I was unbelievably happy.”
It’s those blessings that she now chooses to focuses on. And on Tuesday, she was discharged from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on the very same day as her daughter.
“We’re blessed to leave on the same day,” says Scatton, who will be moving to the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia until she finishes radiation treatment on Feb. 1.
According to her older brother, JJ Gundry, 27, doctors gave Scatton three months to live if she didn’t undergo radiation. But with radiation, her life expectancy is now nine to 12 months, he says.
“Doctors always reference the statistics and it’s a very low survival rate,” he says. “But there are also a lot of treatments and clinical trials — some in phase two — that have positive results.”
The entire family is now figuring out what course of treatment Scatton should get, where that treatment would be and how much it will cost to make it happen. They’ve created a GoFundMe page that has since raised over $45,000.
Scatton says she is choosing to stay positive, and when she thinks about her daughter’s future, she sees herself in it.
“I see myself taking care of my daughter, raising her and living in my life,” she says. “I’m taking things one day at a time.”
Scatton hopes to inspire others to realize that “they can live their lives with no fear, too,” she says.
And every day when she wakes up, she finds joy in seeing her daughter. “She is the most beautiful thing,” she says. “I am so proud of her.”
Gundry says the entire family is blown away by his sister’s courage. “She has been a rock for our entire family,” he says. “She is calm, peaceful and strong,” he says. “She always sees the positive and that’s pretty amazing.”
He will also make sure that little Aries Marie will always be the family’s focus. “She is Dana’s legacy,” he says, “and protecting that legacy will be our number one priority.”