I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma a month before giving birth.
As I was preparing for labour and becoming a new mum, breastfeeding was fundamental to me. I can’t describe how important it was.
After the diagnosis was made, they told me that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed during chemotherapy. That was a huge trauma. I started to think what I can do: colostrum harvesting in advance of labour; asking for a delay of 2 weeks to the chemo so I could feed, express and store my milk for these weeks; pumping and dumping my milk through the chemo with the hope of continuing after the treatment had finished; and I started to search for a milk bank which could support us.
I found the support and understanding our family needed from the team at the Hearts Milk Bank. Since the first phone conversation with them, I gained hope that was help out there and that our son could receive the best food for his immune system despite my illness.
Natalie and Gillian and their team are people with huge hearts! Their professional level of support and quality of communications are outstanding. We did not just receive the best food for our son but also ongoing advice regarding the likely level of chemotherapy drugs in my milk, lactation advice as I was having challenges with expressing, and support through our CCG application to access funding for the donor milk. Also they took time to get to know us, Gillian visited us just after Christmas to explain how to use the frozen donor milk, and Natalie checked in with us at least weekly about our wellbeing and milk stock.
The CCG application was sadly unsuccessful. The whole process was very long and challenging at every stage, but we were overjoyed when Mummy’s Star provided a grant for the first few weeks. Since then, the Hearts Milk Bank have continued to support us with donor milk through their work setting up the Human Milk Foundation. We are so grateful to all of the mothers who donated their milk. Very soon, I hope to be able to at last feed my baby myself.
The Hearts Milk Bank and Human Milk Foundation are doing so much to raise awareness of families who have no option to breastfeed their babies, and I hope they will get more support from the government. They are making a huge impact and I hope they will get more support to make a difference for many families, just like it did for us.