Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Valarie Molstre, Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Getting through chemotherapy and breastfeeding my baby.
Today my son and I overcame a huge obstacle in our journey. He breastfed for the first time.
At 28 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My cancer was stage 2, grade 3, and triple negative—that means it was very aggressive. The doctors decided to start chemotherapy while I was pregnant.
After five cycles of chemo, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I was told I couldn’t breastfeed until weeks after the chemo, so I could not put my baby to my breast when he was born. At first I was even told I wouldn’t be able to pump. The lactation consultant at the hospital wouldn’t even come in to see me.
However, I kept asking questions and found a lactation consultant who was willing to do the research on my chemo medications, and find out how long it would take for each to leave my milk.
We learned later that I could breastfeed ten days after a dose of chemotherapy. I also found out it was safe to pump out my milk. So, for two and a half months, I pumped and dumped to keep producing milk and maintain my milk supply.
Then, when I started a chemotherapy, with doses every other week instead of weekly, I got to breastfeed four days each cycle. Now, finally, after four months of pumping six times a day, I am able to breastfeed my son.
We still face challenges. Radiation will likely dry up my milk in the affected breast, but today I feel victorious. This was symbolic of taking power over my body back. Now I’m the one in control of this one thing. Breastfeeding is something only I can do for my child, and if something happens to me, this is protection and health I can give him that will last the rest of his life.
Please share my story. I wasn’t able to find any information on breastfeeding with chemotherapy online. While every situation is different, I hope this will find some women who have been told they can’t breastfeed, and encourage them to keep looking for answers.
Editor’s note. Valarie wrote this story in June 2015 and today she shared with me this lovely photo of her son who is happy and healthy. All of Valarie’s tests have come back clean so far and happily she is in remission.