By: Renee Cooper Skidmore
It’s Christmas season 2003, and I’m distracted by a lump in my breast. My doctor had told me from an ultrasound a year earlier that it was just a fibroid, but a recent biopsy showed that it was in fact cancer. I was a single mom going through a divorce, and had recently been laid off from my job. A couple weeks after my diagnosis, I had a partial mastectomy, followed by 8 months of chemo and radiation. It was a very long and trying year. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy, but at the same time, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It was in those times that I really learned to appreciate life and every little blessing.
Two years later, I met a wonderful man who loved me and my daughter. We were married with hopes of having more children. After all the treatments I had been through, my doctors couldn’t guarantee I could get pregnant. But a few months after our “I do’s”, we had the wonderful news we were hoping for! We were blessed then with a very healthy baby boy. But the question now was, would I be able to breast feed? After all, the chemo and radiation to my breast was very intense. Well it turns out that the breast that had the cancer was completely damaged from surgery and the radiation, so there was no milking that puppy. But the right breast had more than enough to sustain my 9 lb 8 oz little boy. I was just really lopsided when my milk came in! It was the running joke in our house.
When our son was 3 months old I spent a month in the hospital with heart problems. (Another side effect from the chemo) With the drugs they had me on, I was not able to nurse. Not knowing if I would be on them for a week or a year, I decided to ‘pump and dump’ just to keep my milk going in hopes that I would be able to resume nursing. My sister had her first child a few months before and was breastfeeding. So while I was in the hospital, she came from Windsor and nursed my son as well. Her sister in law had also spent some time in the hospital right after the birth of her last baby and had frozen her milk to keep her supply going. She had all this milk that she didn’t need for herself because after she was released she went directly to nursing her baby. She was thrilled that all those hours of pumping wouldn’t be wasted as we used it for my son while I couldn’t feed him. As it turned out, I was not able to resume breastfeeding my son, but since then I have had another daughter who is almost a year old and I am still very much enjoying nursing her.