A 31-year-old Florida woman is inspiring both mothers and cancer survivors after photos of her breastfeeding her son six months ago have resurfaced.
Sarah Whitney was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer while she was 20 weeks pregnant with her third child. Whitney had to have one breast removed and began chemotherapy all before giving birth. In April, Whitney had a healthy son named Kal-El and a photographer captured images of Whitney breastfeeding her baby with her one remaining breast right after birth.
Those photos went viral, but Whitney tells Today.com that at the time, she just wanted to focus on her newborn son. But a local news station has just recently put together a follow-up story and Whitney's images are now encouraging a whole new set of women.
"It's still completely shocking and unexpected to me that they've gone viral," Whitney told Today Parents. "I think for different people, they mean different things — maybe it's the vulnerability, or maybe it's that any woman that's had a child knows you would do anything for them, or maybe it's seeing a mom breastfeed against all odds."
Though Whitney is thankful to have given birth to a healthy baby during her cancer struggles, she was disappointed that she could only breastfeed him for two weeks before the chemotherapy made her milk toxic. She had had that bond with her first two children and was upset that Kal-El wouldn't get to experience a full connection with her.
"Instinctively, innately it was important to me, and I loved breastfeeding them," said Whitney. "I was looking forward to doing that again with my child and having that bond, so when they told me not only would I not have the delivery I wanted — the drug-free, the natural, the water birth — but that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed…I was heartbroken."
Though it's not 100 percent natural, Whitney says that many mothers have shown their support by giving her their breast milk for Kal-El because they know it's important to her that he doesn't drink formula.
Today, Whitney has finished her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but is being treated with medicated infusions. She will also have to take an anti-hormone for 10 years. Whitney is considering having her other breast removed to decrease the chances of the cancer coming back and is following her doctor's orders by not having anymore children.
Though Whitney and her husband had planned on having four children, she is fine with focusing on the three healthy ones she has now. Kal-El is six months old, and Whitney enjoys having lunch with her older daughter and enrolling her middle son in sports. She used to be too exhausted for those activities, but now she's enjoying every minute of it.