“My experience with breast cancer and breastfeeding” – my story

“My experience with breast cancer and breastfeeding” – my story

This is the story of a LactApp user who shares her story with breast cancer and breastfeeding. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your experience.

My story begins on the 26th of January 2012, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 32 years old. It had been five years since I had a yearly check-up for fibroadenoma. At the last check-up, another similar image appeared in the other breast, which turned out to be an infiltrating ductal carcinoma, a malignant tumor. Until then, my closest experiences with cancer did not have happy endings. My father and paternal aunt had died from the same disease years before, so when I was diagnosed, my first thoughts were very negative. As the days passed and I had to undergo more tests, I became calmer. The tumor was small and localized, and the doctors were optimistic. There were two surgeries: egg preservation, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, brachytherapy, and tamoxifen. The complete package, as I called it.

When I write these lines, after almost six years, looking back, I can tell you many unpleasant sensations, such as the day I started to feel all the physical effects of the chemo. Or when I had to tell my family the news or went into the operating theater to have my eggs removed for preservation just a few weeks after having undergone two surgeries. But I can also explain wonders like how good the tortilla (Spanish omelet) tasted after four days of fasting, the arrival of winter and being able to feel the air on my face, the flowers that adorned my house every now and then, the feeling of being loved and all the fantastic people I met during that year.

Today breast cancer has a high cure rate thanks to screening programs and the population’s awareness. I was 32 years old and outside the statistics. I was one of a small percentage, but I had a high cure rate. My point is that we still have to keep fighting for the small percentages. Those diagnosed at later stages and those who don’t fall into the screening age range, the young adults who have to deal with other concerns like future parenthood.

It’s funny to think that I have the most wonderful baby in the world, thanks to cancer. Emma was an IVF baby with one of the eggs that was retrieved from me. She was born on July 1st of this year after a beautiful, familiar, and uncomplicated birth. Probably the most exciting day of my life.

She weighed 3,500kg and latched on to my breast from the very first moment. My surgery had consisted of a lumpectomy, so I kept my breast but with a flat nipple, as the scar went all the way to that area. Even so, thanks to a lovely nurse, we managed to get my daughter to latch on to the operated breast. I cried and felt more alive than ever.

I don’t remember that the milk coming in was painful. Within a week, she was latching on perfectly. Emma suckled from my operated breast, but since there was no nipple, she gave me quite a big nipple crack. The wound took a long time to heal, and the baby was already used to suckling only from the other breast. When I put her back onto the operated breast, she cried. To this day, it’s still like that, sometimes, she latches onto that breast, but most of the time, she refuses it. Because of some mammary glands missing there, it’s not the same amount of milk that comes out. So when time permits, I stimulate this site with a breast pump.

It’s funny how we are creatures of habit. My baby always goes to the same side when I hold her in my arms, and if I switch her to the other side, she cries and complains. So I am breastfeeding with only one breast, and my daughter is growing up healthy and happy. However, I would like to point out that although I have more or less given up on this aspect, it is possible to breastfeed from an operated breast, no matter how much radiotherapy you had there.

From the start, my doctors supported me in my decision to choose to breastfeed. They told me to give it a try and that both my baby and I would gain from it, and my recovery from childbirth would also be better. I was very lucky when I started taking my baby girl to the pediatrician. I explained my situation to her, and she was very encouraging. And when Emma quickly started gaining weight, she congratulated me. I was on cloud nine. And I’m still like that, enjoying it. I am living motherhood as something incredible that seemed unattainable, a gift that fills me with joy.

When I became pregnant, it was clear that I wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible. And it wasn’t easy at first, but I did it. Hearing from some people that my milk might be different, that my breasts would become asymmetrical and other nonsense doesn’t bother me now because my daughter is wonderful in every way, and I know I am doing the best for her.

Our breastfeeding experience will be over soon. When she passes six months, I will go back on tamoxifen, a hormone treatment that reduces the chance of cancer recurrence. Since I want to have more children, I decided with my oncologist to retake the medication for a year and then try to get pregnant again and, of course, go back to breastfeeding. Unfortunately, tamoxifen is not compatible with pregnancy and breastfeeding.

When breastfeeding, I have cried with emotion and sometimes pain, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. The bond that breastfeeding has brought between us is ours alone. I encourage all women to give it a try. And to those who, like me, have faced cancer and want to be mothers and breastfeed, do not get overwhelmed. I want them to see that there are women who have done it. Although it may not seem like it, there are many of us.

Best of luck, and have a good day to all of you!

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